Last week, we saw a documentary titled ‘Schooling the World’. It was about how modern education is aimed at and has substantially succeeded in destroying the ethnic cultures, ruined the lives of many for the gains of few individuals and nations and distorted children from the path of natural growth and lured them to a much inferior materialistic life. It states that the genesis of the degradation of education lay in the colonial domination, which treated the subjected nations as resources meant to fulfill their dream of ruling the world. It goes on to state that many well intentioned efforts are accelerating this degradation because they are blinded to the real effects of modern schooling. Overall, it is the story of evil western forces using their power to destroy the cultural treasures of eastern tradition by way of reforming the schooling system.
The audiences to the movie were 5 couples, 3 of who have completely pulled their children from modern schooling, one family who schooled their daughter in their own alternate school till age 12 and one couple, who’d taken their child through regular schooling till graduation. There seemed a consensus regarding the evil effects of modern schooling. The course of action for the future was however blurred. I was convinced by the powerful communication, which reinforced my view that modern schooling is indeed unnecessary and harmful for children.
Later, when Rekha and I were discussing, she indicated that it was quite a one-sided communication. As we thought through more, we felt it was quite audacious to attribute every possible modern day problem to the modern schooling. Poverty, unemployment, environmental degradation, loss of cultural values and ethnic practices, drug abuse, disregard for human lives were all inferred as effects of modern schooling and the blind faith in it.
I now realize that the subject deserves far more thought before one arrives at a judgment. After all, my enquiry in this subject is not academic alone; it has an application. I need to review my own bias which is probably shaping the lives of my children. Following questions & logical inferences can get me started.
1. It is true that we’ve lost much of the traditional knowledge, skills and way of life and replaced it by ways, which are destructive (to health, environment, values and more), degenerating and inferior. But, there must have been something amiss in our older way of life. We are not known to buy into a new way of life so easily. Did we yearn for more fun and/or more recognition of our individual selves? It would be quite unfair to say that it was the white man’s coercive ways, which forced people to modern schooling. It would be insightful to slowly, without any bias, relive the process, which led the common man to mend his ways.
2. Is modern schooling a completely wasteful package? Or can we pick useful aspects from modern schooling, which are better than traditional practices and can now be blended in a newer approach?
3. When we think of ideal education methods, can there be one approach for all? Obviously not. When we consider the population in question, it may be possible that scores of different approaches are required for different kinds of children and their role in future. Is it then prudent to put the current system in such bad light that anyone sending his children to a modern school is burdened with guilt?
4. Again, is it fair to attribute so many social problems to modern schooling? Bulk of the problems can be attributed to erosion of values, lack of concern and single minded pursuit to earn more money. Is parenting not to be questioned? Are values a function of the quality of living or quality of schooling? Are schools today not a reflection of what parents would want them to be? What is the complaint about, then?
5. If extinction of species of organisms is natural, is extinction of traditional practices, languages and knowledge not? Does everything becoming extinct need to be protected?
The point is quite well made that modern schooling has a number of serious lacunae. Certain forces may also have used it to their advantage without a concern for those subjected to it. But unless an alternative is proposed, drawing conclusions may be incorrect, even irresponsible. And we know it well that there are enough number of well intentioned people, who are well acquainted with the flip side of modern education and have been trying to develop an alternative for years. Simply sensitizing people about the ills of schooling will only end up creating angst, guilt and despair.