Educating India (Part-III): Hear it from Sir Ken Robinson

ken robinson.jpg

Education is one of the boring subjects to discuss when you are in a party. Everyone needs it, everyone is concerned about it, but how many are willing to go in for an in depth discussion about it?

When it comes to educating our children most of the parents usually go with the wind of the times, subject to their economic limitations. And immediate economic considerations always takes precedence over anything else like the actual talent or inclination of the child.

In depth discussion about educational issues may be boring. But, you will be surprised to know that a TED talk given by British Educationist Sir Ken Robinson is one of the most watched videos on TED website and Youtube.

Here in India the perception is created that much of the rot in the education system can be traced to Macauley. But, after hearing Ken Robinson I realised that it is a global phenomenon. Education was taken seriously by the governments in the nineteenth century to meet the growing need of the industrial revolution. Thus, while some aspects of education (maths, science etc) are overemphasised, other aspects like arts, music, dance etc., are never given the importance these subjects deserve in our school curriculum.

These talks are sprinkled with generous doses of humour. So whether you are an educationist, a parent, or a lover of British sense of humour, do not miss these videos.

 https://embed.ted.com/talks/lang/en/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity

https://embed.ted.com/talks/lang/en/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution

https://embed.ted.com/talks/lang/en/ken_robinson_how_to_escape_education_s_death_valley

(My book Sixteen Parenting Sutras is live now on amazon. It is also available on #KindleUnlimited)

Part 1: Educating India

Part 2 : Educating India

 

What’s up, Doc?

durgadash1

Bugs Bunny’s casual inquiry – ‘What’s up, doc?’ – was not meant to elicit a detailed status update as Bunny himself (or, itself) hardly waited for the answer. But status update is very cool and hot these days in the era of smart phones. Whether you are interested or not, your phone is bombarded with status updates and messages of all kinds.

There are some friends who are just content with sending a good morning message to the group that we are members of. Some go a little far in sending the same message to my personal whatsapp number. Some go a little too far when, after sending the good morning message to our common whatsapp group and to my personal number, they send the same message to me through Facebook messenger.

Recently I read an interesting article titled – Whatsapp Freezes Because Indians Send Over 100 Crore Good Morning Messages It Just Can’t Handle.  It means this fad is not a global phenomenon and now there is one more thing I as an India should be proud of.

In a country where people love to bombard you with good wishes morning, mid morning, mid day, after noon, evening, and night, getting out of whatsapp groups, that you are not interested in, becomes a sensitive issue. If I had not been a little rude, till now I must have been a member of about one hundred such groups. When you leave a group some admins do not express their disapproval openly or immediately, while some are a little vocal demanding an explanation as to what made you to choose this disastrous path of your life. Some may go a little far as they add you back again and again ignoring all your humble efforts to exit the group.

Some admins use innovative methods to keep the flock together, like the one where every one was made an admin immediately after he or she joined the group. How can you show your back to a group where you are a caretaker now?

Messaging apps have created a lot of duplicate Nirmal Babas. Messages and photos come with a rider that you must forward the message to ten others so that kripa ani suru ho jayegi.. (blessings will flow to you).  But there are threatening messages too: ‘you must forward this to ten others or else..’

When social media arrived on the scene, people were already fed up with the biased attitude of the main stream media which has been considered as the fourth pillar of democracy. Some thought (and I think still they do) that social media would act as the fifth  pillar of democracy.

But the fact is social media is slowly turning into a filthy pillars of democracy as we are bombarded with propaganda and rumours in the form of ‘forwarded as received’ messages. Most of the ‘forwarded as received’ messages turn out to be fake. Some messages kill people while they are still alive. Some warn about imminent earthquakes or other disasters quoting from privileged sources. It is unfortunate that people react to such messages without bothering to verify the authenticity of such forwarded messages.

Long before Shashi Kapoor actually died I got a forwarded message about his death. I immediately checked on google news and there was no such news. Now a days when authentic information is available at the same finger tip that as that of the forwarded message through the app, I fail understand why people do not take a few seconds to verify such news before forwarding it blindly to others.

The one thing I sometimes like are the jokes. But it is not a joke when you receive the same joke a dozen times a day, or worse when a joke lands up in the wrong forum. I am  a member of a few spiritual groups and one day it was a shock of our life time when a lady member posted an adult joke in the forum. Of course later one one of her friends, in order to clear the embarrassment that hung around her, took pains to make us understand that it was one of her mischievous colleagues who did this.

What is far worse is when your well intentioned  amorous messages land in the inbox  of an unintended recipient. In my book – Idle Hours -I have discussed one such incident in humorous detail. However let me briefly state it here. Once I received a message on my whatsapp, ‘Janu I love you’. It was from a married lady who was not married to me. To make matters worse my wife saw the message first. Of course later it was confirmed that she had accidentally sent the message to me in stead of her husband and all parties were assured of it after necessary verification and certification. Everything ended well. But I leave the scenes of turbulence that must have happened in between to your generous imagination.

That’s all folks. Thanks for reading.

(In response to Indispire Edition 206 . Topic suggested by Dr. Anita Sabat)

 

 ‘Teach Me To Dream’ – Book Review

My illustrator friend Sailaja Anand ( who is also an eternal optimist) has put up her perceptions of my poems on her blog.

ETERNAL OPTIMIST

‘Teach Me To Dream’ has been written by Mr. Durga Prasad Dash whose work I always have admired. It is an anthology of poems that celebrate life in its myriads of aspects: love, longing, pain, illusion,beauty and ugliness, freedom, bondage, war, politics, enlightenment.There is no sphere of life that is left un touched by the author. Each emotion is conveyed beautifully and every reality is expressed with conviction. Each stanza is a beautiful piece in itself, touching the deep core.

In part I, the way the author has connected seasons and emotions with his web of words is so heartening.
”there is a rhythm in the sun,
melody in air, and
dance in water”
Through words the author is indeed celebrating the nature with beautiful expression.
In poem ‘your sweet absense’
In the following lines
“In my lack of discretion
hoping to rise with you
I fall again and again”

View original post 281 more words

Educating India (part-2): Specialisation

 

This week’s Indispire prompt suggested by blogger Neha Tambe is about Indian Education Scenario. The exact prompt is: ‘What kind of changes do you wish to see in the education system in India? Learning cannot work like an assembly line. Why can’t children choose in high school their focus subject and graduate with that? Share your ideas and vision about education.’

The prompt asks: why can’t children choose in high school their focus subject and graduate with that. Well, in my opinion high school is too early a time to go for specialisation.

In High School (upto class X) let the children taste all the different branches of knowledge. It will help them, first of all, to know for themselves where in lies their strength or weakness. It will also help them to discover their own inclination for particular fields of study.

Secondly, specialisation cannot happen in total isolation. It can happen only after a certain degree of generalistion. An engineer needs to express his thesis in proper language. All subjects are somewhere interconnected. A scientist should have a little background in humanities and ethics so that when she goes for scientific inventions she does not ignore the potential harmful effects of the inventions on the civilisation.  The scientist also lives in society hence must know the basics of social sciences to be aware of what does it mean to be a responsible citizen. And without history we would not know why a particular group of people behave today in response to different situations.

In ancient days, in the western civilization, all kinds of knowledge were bundled as philosophy which literally means love of knowledge. Of course now a days the word philospher indicates to someone who is devoid of all types of practical knowledge. There was no rigid partition. The greatest Greek philosophers wrote about science, poetry, drama and rolled out self help literature all at the same time. Pythagoras was not only a great mathematician, but also a great mystic. The works of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and others have stood the test of time.

In ancient India knowledge was divided into two broad categories: the para vidya and the apara vidya – the knowledge of the inner and the knowledge of the outer. While we need certain skills to make a living, we also need to learn certain skills to manage our own life, its ambitions and emotions. In the Gurukula both the branches of knowledge were taught to the children to make them complete human beings. Of course subsequently students moved onto their area of higher studies either on their own or under the guidance of specific masters. The universities at Taxila and Nalanda were famous for higher education.

Let me here clarify that para vidya is not religious knowledge which is all about a set of beliefs and rituals. Para vidya is more of kindling in the student a spirit of inquiry into the existential issues of life and giving them the tools to discover them.

In fact I would recommend that the curriculum of high school becomes more broad based to include subjects like elementary economics and accounting. It will also be good to introduce the students to alternate versions of History, rather than changing the history syllabus to suit the ideology of the party in power. 

Maybe, the time has come in India now to go for cross-specialisation. I come across the profile of US or European students with a diploma in Art History and graduation in electrical engineering. Of course In India also students also go for cross-specialisaton after Engineering or medical they go for an MBA degree in Finance or Marketing. It is still not a culturally acceptable thing in India that someone is pursuing a serious academic course in a University in aesthetics after a post-graduation in  in anesthetics.

Mad Charvak says cross-specialisation is the mother of all creativity. 

 

Let the Gregorian New Year make us more Gracious

As one of the blogger friends has mentioned in the comments of the previous post, this time around the wish was not a simple new year. Some wished a great English New Year, Some a great Christian New Year, and some a prosperous Gregorain New Year. In fact, in my previous post, I myself was wondering why we do not name it as the Christian New Year.

However, at this point of time, 2017 years After Christ,  I think we should not be so fussy. The Gregorian calendar has now become the international standard for dating (no pun intended). So be it.

In fact, unless we are specifically reminded that celebrating the Gregorain new year is endemic to our cultural values, we will not start thinking seriously that it has the potential to uproot us from our native culture and religion.

Now imagine what would happen if every country, every region, every religion, and every sect  rigorously started using its own version of calendar rejecting all other versions. In India itself we would have more than hundred types of calendars. If you boarded the train at Bareilly on 07.02. 2032, you would wake up in Bangalore after two days on 05.04.2130.

And imagine how difficult the life of the air traffic controllers and the pilots would be. Even Google and Microsoft will have a hard time to construct special algorithms to match your religious and cultural sensibilities and sense of time.

At the same time the same generosity should be extended to many other practices. Reservations have been expressed about the International Day of Yoga. A couple of years back clerics in Egypt issued edicts against yoga terming it as un-islamic. Even though yoga is more widely practiced in the Christain majority countries of the west than the country of its origin, Churches have expressed their disapproval.

Maybe, to avoid confrontation with the church, some yogic practitioners came up with a theory that yoga originated in the West. But I don’t think even such a theory will pacify the people who think yoga is a type of a subtle invasion to uproot people from their cultural and religious roots.

People who object to yoga on religious grounds should read the primary treatise on yoga: Patanjali’s yogasutras. To be a yogi you do not need first of all to believe in any particular concept of God, or heaven, or origin of the universe.

Mad Charvak says that this is the very reason religious leaders are afraid of yoga. Religions are driven by faith. When people follow reason and experimentation based on cause and effect there are chances that they will see through the various schemes they propagate in the name of religious faith.

Last year I did not want to wish my loved ones A Happy New Year. Let me assure you it was not for any religious reason. I was alarmed going through what some leading thinkers over the ages had said about happiness.

This year let me wish everyone to start the new year on a poetic note. To help your poetic journey, my anthology of poems – teach me to dream– will be available for free download from 3rd to 5th Jan 2018.

teachme to dream book cover

Educating India (Part-I): Secularism

“Re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul.” – Walt Whitman

On one hand, we cry foul that our nation is becoming less secular and more polarised. On the other hand, we encourage religious institutions to expand their empires of education. So we want the patient to recover from fever and at the same time encourage him to take cold showers regularly.

The trend was started by the Christian Missionaries as part of their strategy to harvest overpopulated souls in developing and underdeveloped countries. Other strategies included opening hospitals and providing charity to the needy and underprivileged. These three strategies have something  in common. The sick, the needy, and the under-aged are at their vulnerable worst, thus making their mind ripe to be instilled with a new form of God.

Slowly, followers of other religions woke up to the potential. Of course, these schools and colleges did not have any covert agenda to harvest souls. Some educational evangelists discovered the potential of harvesting millions (in hard unaccounted cash) by running educational institutions under the banner of religious organisations or by stoking the religious pride.  Some of these institutes were established to counter the expansionist agenda of the Church.

You allow your children to study under the supervising eyes of a particular set of jealous Gods, who don’t see eye to eye with other sets of Gods (Or a God, Or the God) and expect them to emerge secular or religiously broadminded when they grow up.

For any such flaws of serious nature in our society, usually, the immediate response is to bring in new legislature. By the way there is no need for any special laws to be enacted now to cleanse our education system of things non-secular. The CBSE bylaws mandate that in order to get recognition schools must propagate secular mindset. Now the question is : who will bell the cat? (Mad Charvak says, ‘After all, dear brother, who would risk losing such a chunk of vote bank?’)

 Vested interests (that includes parents) want that people spend their early part of life in heavily conditioned religious setups that emphasize ‘ours’ is the only way,  so that they become protectors of their great cultures and religions when they grow up.

At the same time society should not go to the other extreme of banning all kinds of spiritual education. Let the students learn a little bit of history and essence of all faiths, including non-religious faiths like communism. That will prevent them from becoming chauvinists, and in the extreme case from becoming terrorists.

By the way, as 2017 is coming to a close a strange question is coming to my mind. Certain day is called a Hindu New Year, another as a Jain New Year, and so on. Why not call this one starting from tomorrow as the Christian New Year, which in fact is a Christian New Year?

Mad Charvak is warning me – Shsh…… a trade secret.

(In response to Indispire#202)

Monica Lewinsky and the Trolls of our Times

A couple of days back a woman of acquaintance committed suicide. The usual story : alleged extra marital affairs, a society that loves to take figments of weird imagination as the gospel truth, rumour, lack of emotional support from near ones, stress, depression, and fear of facing alone an antagonistic world. Remember, there were male parties to the whole issue. But, it was the woman who faced the majority of the insults and finally paid with her life.

Coincidentally, perhaps at the time when the woman was preparing to hang herself, in the comfortable surroundings of my home I was watching a series of TED talks, one of them being a talk by Monica Lewinsky about the trials and tribulations she faced after the news of her inappropriate actions in the White House became public. Well, those who were of news digestible age by 1998 need no introduction to her.

 

She recounts that it was an internet site that first broke the news. The president of the United States of the America had been caught pants down with a young intern in the white house. Within no time news spread like wild fire all over the world. The internet was full of nasty comments about her. All sorts of editors from the main stream media to the yellow press wanted to outdo one another in dishing out juicy details. And shaming her.

Bill Clinton was effected too. Of course, he was not as devastated as the lady. Nor was he trolled and shamed both offline and online, as vigorously as Monica was done. He was let off after the public was fed up with inventing banters about him. Ultimately, the US public did not want him to lose his job. His wife stood by his side and after a decade, she  was vying for the top post of the world.

Meanwhile, Monica was having a hard time reconciling with the nasty world. She recalls that at some point she too thought of committing suicide. Her mother stood by her. Her mother was so cautious, she insisted that Monica should keep the door open while taking her shower.

In India we have the idea that women are in the receiving end and the bearer of the bigger brunt only in orthodox countries like ours. We think women are better off in such matters in free, modern and progressive countries of the west.  But it seems whether it is in the west or in the east, society has been grossly unfair to the fairer sex.

Monica also recalls an incident of a girl committing suicide after someone filmed her intimate moments with  a boy friend and made it viral. These are some of the flip sides of the social media.

The talk also raises deeper issues of freedom and citizen responsibility. How can we demarcate a line when commercial interests (more visitors to the website/ more readers of the newspaper) override media ethics and an individual’s right to privacy?  Should freedom of expression push every humane consideration to the sideline?

Of course the main issue here is the way society treats women and men over similar mistakes. We know that in Ramayana, Sita did not go through the agniparikha (to pass through fire to prove her chastity) voluntarily. It was ordained by the keepers of morality. Same way, our historians who are now too obsessed with the Aryan Invasion theory, should do serious research to find out whether, during the Isalmic invasion and loot, women voluntarily went through the sati ritual or were coerced to do so.

heights of beauty

Manushi Chhillar.jpgCan’t one be lovely without being fair? Is beauty only skin deep?  The facts, of a CBSE topper becoming the miss world this year and the balanced mix of whites, blacks, and browns in top ten of the Miss World pageant, are more than enough to bust these myths.

But one disconcerting question remains. One of the eligibility conditions to participate in the contest (for an Indian) is that a candidate’s height should be at least 5 ft 5 in ( earlier it was 5 ft 6 in). Even though this is the minimum, the past winners of Miss India contests have been around 6 ft. Hence, low height is a disadvantage for any contestant even though she may qualify. I don’t understand why should height be a limiting factor when it comes to be an eligible participant in a  beauty pageant?

I don’t think, from India, there has been any Miss World or Miss Universe who can beat Rekha in grace, elegance or mental agility. Same goes for Vyjayanthi Mala, Jaya Bachchan, Vidya Balan, and many of the past and present Bollywood divas. It is worth noting that the average height of Indian women is 5 ft.

Even though at the international level contest skin colour has never been a disadvantage, it seems it is a disadvantage to win the contest in India. I would be happy to be proved wrong if someone can inform me of a case when a black beauty in India was a finalist in the Indian version of the pageant.

Well there are some other limiting conditions. In order not to give a miss, the girl  should be a miss – literally and biologically and she should not be between 18 and 25. There is an ambiguous condition too: The applicant by nature and habits should carry the traits of a female. Maybe to give a chance to those who missed the contest for not being a miss, they have started the Mrs. world contest.

Such conditions keep a vast majority of the beautiful and talented women of India out of the context. Thus, chosen from the minority sample size, someone winning the contest at the international level contest is a great achievement indeed;  that too in a beauty contest where every contestant’s ultimate dream is to become a Mother Teresa or a female version of a Mahatma Gandhi.

It is wonderful that an Indian girl has become a Miss World. It has happened after a gap of seventeen years. India has equaled the record of Venezuela in terms of most number of winners. However, given the talent that is available in India, if some of the discriminatory conditions are removed, India will not have to wait for another seventeen years to get the next crown. Moreover, it will be in line with the philanthropic ideals of the beauty contests.

 

cities inhabitable

air pollution

Hawa mein udta jae,
mora lal dupatta malmal ka
ooo…  ji… ooo ji

Hey girl. Don’t let your dupatta fly off your soft hands. Delhi is approaching. You will need it to cover your nose and mouth.

The air pollution in Delhi reaching alarming proportions is the top trending news these days. Of course for the weak lunged, most of the Indian cities are increasingly becoming inhabitable. After shifting to Bangalore when I went to a doctor friend for my persistent cough, the first advice he gave was to leave Bangalore.

In the WHO list of most polluted cities in terms of outdoor pollution, ten Indian cities have the honour of being included in the top twenty.  Delhi, which ranks fifth among Indian cities, gets highlighted the most because, the media men and VIPs stationed there think Delhi is the world.

Air pollution in cities has become a common phenomenon in hugely populated developed countries. Countries like India and China with their affluent population crowding the cities experience it the most. Recently there were newspaper reports that many city dwellers in China are forced to flee the cities.

In India, the major causes of pollution are industrial and vehicular emissions and inefficient cooking fuel. According to the WHO report the air quality in many of the thickly populated rural areas do not provide a back up for the city dweller.

Adulterated vehicle fuel and traffic congestion worsen the situation in cities. Following the example of China, the Delhi government implemented the odd even scheme to reduce number of vehicles on the road. But the impact of such schemes has not been on expected lines and these schemes are likely to end up as symbolic gestures in the long run as people find innovative ways to bypass the system. Maybe, the time has come for tougher measures like banning of all four-wheelers other than public transports and ambulances on fixed days.

Those who commute to office for less than  five kms can easily pedal to office. The healthier and more enthusiast ones will not mind the distance, provided there are dedicated cycle tracks. We need to create more awareness in this regard and the city planners must focus on decreasing traffic congestion and encouraging people to pedal around the city.

The sharp increase in use of personal vehicles can be attributed to increase in purchase power. But economic empowerment of people cannot be and should not be reversed. No doubt pollution is a byproduct of modernisation. However, scientific development in one field can be used to counter the ill effects of scientific development of another field. We can focus on developing technologies to have affordable cars like Nano or, improving the vehicles that run on no fuel. Further increase in standard of living makes people abandon basic bikes and cars in favour of luxury brands that consume more fuel. Problem is – it is the inessentials with money power who also influence legislative decisions. Thus, it becomes difficult to legislate and implement simple and practical solutions.

For a growing economy with a huge population the situation can only get worse as we go for more investment in manufacturing sector. Hope, side by side with the improvement of our ranking in ease of doing business,  we took tough steps to ease out our ranking from pollution index.

start-the-post-with-lyrics-of-your-favourite-song.jpg

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

Get a copy of my book ‘Idle Hours- Humour|Memoir|Essays ‘to read more of my takes on  social, trivial and selfhelp issues. You may find some of them hilarious too.