ABC and the three R’s

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Education is neither a measure nor an indication of common sense. Thus spake my dad. And any time you started doubting the statement, wondering “Hey, that just can’t be true“, he’d just point out a real life example; an educated idiot. Human life hasn’t evolved enough for dad to run out of examples to point at. It’s a philosophy that seems to last through the ages.

I can see that it’d be an easy error to read the last paragraph and conclude that I’m dissing education. Not at all. I’m just saying idiocy is too large an institution to get eradicated by education alone, unless it’s made into a major action movie and the part of Education is played by Bruce Willis with a machine gun.

"Young Earth Creationist in sight. He's spewing nonsense on civilians. Kindly advice."Wikimedia Commons

“Young Earth Creationist in sight. He’s spewing nonsense on civilians. Kindly advice.”

In the real world, idiocy seems to be invincible. But education is a good starting point. Good education can help you think, question, and give some learning you can use to advance yourself. Education was never meant to be an assembly line that shoots out finished products. The best education does not leave the student fully aware/ knowledgeable. It leaves them thinking, and hungry for more.

"Please, sir. Can I have some more... books, pencils and paper? Oh, and some more soup, while we're at it."Oliver! | Columbia Pictures

“Please, sir. Can I have some more… books, pencils and paper? Oh, and some more soup, while we’re at it.”

The problem with the world today is not a lack of education. It’s a misdirected education. My closest friends would testify that I don’t really deal well with change. It usually takes me upwards of several months to get used to changes like, say, new seat covers on my bike. But I have to admit that despite my personal discomfort, there are good kinds of change. But it can’t be random. It took the board of education enough time to realize that they needed to revamp the system. The thing with our country is that once clarity invades an elected head, it is usually followed by sneak attacks of confusion.

"We need change, people! Umm... not that kind of change, Chad. Put that back."

“We need change, people! Umm… not that kind of change, Chad. Put the coins back.”

It seems that they didn’t really know WHAT changes to make. They have some issues in mind, certainly, but are they taking a studied response? There is a need to reduce unnecessary burden on children. Check. But how do you go about it? You can’t be arbitrary here. You can’t just go around snipping off exams, marks, and books without thinking things through, unless, of course, you’re Freddy Krueger. Knee jerk reactions never saved anybody.

Although, admittedly, some people have made a career out of knee jerk reactions.Wikimedia Commons

Although, admittedly, some people have made entire careers out of knee jerk reactions.

What I fear, and I confess it may be unfounded, is that we’re going to see micro-attacks on specific problems without analyzing their roots. Reducing burden by eliminating exams, simplifying evaluation, and beefing up reservation quotas are irrational short term solutions that ignores the larger picture. But then again, by the time the larger picture is unveiled, the committees and parties would have changed, wouldn’t it? “Not my problem” is, after all, the silent anthem of the country.

Our country started off with the three R’s of education, and now the government doesn’t seem like it’s offering even three hours of education. At least, not quality ones. I’m a bit rustic on History, but if I remember right, it dates back to our ancient under-the-banyan tree schooling systems. The three R’s of education included Reading, ‘Riting, and Rapping. As obsolete as these basic tenets are, we have to ask whether… hmm… Rapping? That can’t be right.

“…itzda squar-root of da hypo-te-nooze, yo”

Don’t get me wrong. I like the image of old Dronacharya jivin’ to the beat, trying to teach students art and archery. The immediate image that pops into mind is that old tale about Arjuna’s bird eye view

On that branch way up there, you can see the eye
Of a sturdy little birdy, just a’ tweetin’ by
Tell me quickly Arjuna, as you steady your aim
Can you cap that spot, or sonny, are you lame?

I’m starin’ right at the eye, Dron, my man
And it’s all that I see; It’s all that I can
If I pop it now, I swear that bird is goin’ blind
And then I’ll do the mambo, sir, if you don’t mind.

With all the prescribed ‘Yo’s and ‘hoo’s thrown about for good measure. I like the image… I mean… who wouldn’t? But I still have this sneaking suspicion that I screwed up somewhere. But whatever the third R stood for, it’s quite immaterial. Pointless, other than serving as a testament to obsolescence.

We are going to have a whole host of radical changes in the educational system soon. From whatever I’ve heard so far from the sneak preview of upcoming attractions, I think some of them seem straight forward enough. But judging by the kind of knee jerk reactions we are typically shown, I wouldn’t be surprised if we have reforms that basically takes education a few notches down.

The essential tenets of a good educational system should be

  1. Teach what is required.
  2. Test to see what was acquired. and…
  3. Try not to rap the two lines up there.

Seems simple enough to me. But there’s nothing in life that’s so simple that a government body can’t find a way to screw it up. Flawed as it is, our current system has nevertheless given Indians a good reputation in academics. There ARE ways to improve the system without compromising on this benefit. Maybe they’ll figure it out. Maybe they’ll act on it.

But somehow, something tells me dad’s gonna have a whole new batch of real life examples to point at in the not too distant future.

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13 Responses

  1. Binny V A says:

    Nice timing. I am writing a series on Useless skills they teach you in schools. Stuff like making squiggly lines. And remembering correct spellings.

    Yeah – basically everything they taught in schools are useless skills.

  2. silverine says:

    Good one! Have to agree with the first and last line. Right now I see a fight on the cards with politicians making this into a vote bank issue (i.e. if they haven’t learned anything from the election) But this is an issue that the parents will be involved in very vociferously. Lets see what happens.

  3. /urgu says:

    LOL! Awesome part about Drona n Arjuna.

  4. mathew says:

    well written post..and straight to the point…atleast its a good sign that they realised change was required…i almost felt it justified a post i had recently written on something similar…hope the reforms are decided by educationist with new ideas and not the old babudom era ideas on how the new system should be..

  5. priyanka says:

    loved the rap 😛 , almost pictured arjun with baggy pants, skull cap and a golden tooth up front .

  6. me says:

    That sounds GOOD! The piece, not the problem.. Very nicely put 🙂

  7. Riya says:

    Just when I was worried you were getting all serious on us, you brought in the rap. Way to save the day/post/all-of-humanity/the-universe-as-we-know-it. 🙂

    As for the rest of the post, nobody’s going to notice small, effective changes. So people feel compelled to make drastic, unnecessarily stupid changes. That’s just how things work, it seems. Everybody likes the attention.

  8. hammy says:

    @binny v a:
    Hey, don’t knock squiggly lines. Some people make a living drawing squiggly lines. And corekt spelink has its own place in society too. So I wouldn’t be that quick to debunk ALL the things they taught in school.

    Well, the first and last lines are usually the most important ones anyway. Reading between those lines is a practice often debated… at least on this site. And yes, I’m quite sure this issue will spark off debates and flare tempers. I, for one, welcome it. Considering the standard of movies released in the past few months, I could use the entertainment.

    How sure am I that this issue will be debated fiercely? Let’s just say… I’ve already bought the popcorn. 😀

    Thanks. Maybe I should cut an album with Eminem. Fusion, you know – “Mahabharat – Wars in verse”

    Hey! Optimism! I remember the feeling. Good times. 😀

    Whoa, whoa, whoa. Are you implying Arjuna did NOT wear baggy pants, skull caps, and golden teeth? Man, I really ought to read the book again.

    Glad you like it, me. Hmm… feels weird calling you me. Maybe I should call you ‘mini-me’ or something. Don’t get me wrong. I love talking to myself, but I still find it weird talking to a ‘me’ other than myself. Call it a linguistic inhibition.

    Saved by the bell, eh?

    You’re right about the need to make drastic stupid changes over small, but effective. It’s basically part of the top three commandments of politics, right along with “Wear white” and “Cover your tracks”

  9. well, a change is inevitable. But our system has evolved over the years and an abrupt change will be diabolical.

    There was a video about kids being taught just drawing and playing in classes upto 10 years in US and Europe. They’re just taken for picnic and taught to learn the world around them in their own ways. In Kerala we tried the DPEP and see what happened [:P]

    It seems we have to change the system from the top here. A Class I kid is trained with IAS/Engeneering/Medicine as the final goal, so this kind of experiments at the grassroot levels are deemed to fail.

  10. Suzan says:

    It is a pleasure to sit at work. Escape from this boring work. Relax, and read the information written here:).

  11. Webmaster says:

    The author, and you do not accidentally from Moscow?.

  12. derekpm says:

    Rather interesting. Has few times re-read for this purpose to remember. Thanks for interesting article. Waiting for trackback

  13. hammy says:

    I guess the change has to start with the parent. Life has so many opportunities, and forcefitting each child into either an engineer or a doctor is not going to help them any. You CAN force a round peg into a square hole, but will you really feel happy about yourself knowing that the peg is more or less ruined by then?

    Thank you, Suzan. I assure you, I never meant my blog to be ‘informative’. It’s just a stray two or three articles that will bear that tag. Mostly, the aim recklessly random humor. THAT will be Nirvana.

    But I’m certainly glad you’re enjoying it.

    Nope. Not accidentally from Moscow. Not intentionally from Moscow either. I’m an Indian, but I’d love to visit Moscow someday. Travel the world, so to speak.

    You actually re-read the article a few times? I’m… I’m speechless. I doubt if anyone else does that. Thank you very much, Derek. Feel free to visit anytime. Re-read at will. 😀

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