Allow me to begin by asking a question-what is that one word which could aptly describe the current global socio-political scenario? Disturbing, agonizing or painful? We all might differ in our choice of the word but there is something common to all the sufferings of the global community and this “something” is at the root of these problems.
It’s hunger– not for food, but for power, thirst– not for water, but for the blood of all those who beg to differ. But, differ we must, for that is how we were created. The human world is very strictly operating on the Darwinian principle and each one of us is striving not just to survive but to reap the richest dividend for oneself.
In this race to supremacy, the notions of morality, ethics, values and principles that were supposed to be the cornerstone of our social being have gone for a toss. People are being butchered, nature is being strangled and as if all this was not enough, the entire socio-cultural fabric which is the unique selling proposition of a pluralistic society is being targeted with a vicious agenda forcing us to live in an atmosphere of constant fear, the fear of threat to our identity, our existence, our freedom and our rights, be it personal, social, religious or intellectual. Out of all these, the threat to our identity is ostensibly a matter of biggest concern for the demagogues of the world.
Sadly, most of their followers never question the notion of Identity that is thrust upon them. It is this very notion which is used to ignite communal passion and generate a feeling of “Us versus Them.”
But why am I discussing it here? Well, I just want to ascertain the role of the institution called “school” in building the kind of world we are living in today.
As an educator, I often wonder whether we have been able to rise above the “bread and butter” aim of education to achieve the higher aims. Hasn’t our education system failed to fulfill the social aims? Have we succeeded in developing the spirit of co-operation, universal brotherhood, mutual respect and tolerance? Do we train the heart to awaken the deepest feelings of empathy and fellowship, or is the mind being trained to question the popular discourse on social issues or develop the art of self-regulation? Unfortunately, the answer to all these questions is a big ‘NO’ which brings us to ask – why? To answer this we need to reflect on the nature of education as a process. Isn’t Education itself a political activity which has always been used as a tool by each socio-political group to further their own causes and most often by the dominant group to maintain its hegemony? Can we then, ever think of creating a peace loving society based on the concept of harmonious co-existence through education?
If you are curious to know whether I am offering a solution/an alternative, then I am sorry to disappoint but I was just thinking aloud. The answers to these questions are not easy, The job of the educators is to train minds to think, discuss, debate and question not just those in seats of power but also the existing dominant socio-cultural views and practices. Educators and teachers can initiate thoughts within schools and colleges but then that’s just the beginning. The society as a whole needs to nurture this inquisitive mind, only then can we become civilized in true sense.