Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Quiet Please!

If you have ever watched a closely contested match for Wimbledon title, be it Gentlemen’s Singles or Ladies' Singles, in which the Crowd’s favourite is on a losing ground, you would have heard the crowd rooting for its favourite and urging the player to ‘buck up!’ At the moment when one can sense the increasing restlessness of the crowd, you would hear a husky voice requesting or rather demanding silence with a terse announcement ‘Quiet please, Ladies and Gentlemen!, immediately followed by a Thank You! I have always been amused by the fact that the spectators at Wimbledon are immediately hushed in to silence with such a brusque request and it used to remind me of ‘I-want- pin-drop-silence-in-the-classroom-now’ order of my teachers in the school days and how we used to stop whatever we were doing and wait for that imaginary pin to drop during the ensuing stillness. It goes without saying, since that imaginary pin never dropped, we would resume whatever we were doing, after giving the Teachers a breathing time to think of assignments for us.
Yes, today is Teacher’s Day. Across India, children would have listened to the glorious guru-shishya parampara of our culture. They would have listened to the respectful place that an Acharya has in everybody’s mind and heart irrespective of age. Acharya Devo Bhavah
The Chief Guests would have spoken about the following sloka and made the children repeat it after him:
Gurubrahma Guruvishnu Gururdevo Maheshwaraha
Guruhu Sakshaat Parambrahman tasmai Shrigurave namaha
This hymn/sloka had been part of morning prayers in my school as well as college. But don’t you think that this reverence for the teachers is highly misplaced? I believe so, mainly because of three reasons;
Firstly, teachers are no longer mere teachers. They are paid professionals and if they find the pay package not satisfactory, they resort to many part time jobs- apart from doing tuitions at home- like managing a petty shop, working as a farmer on his land, agents for insurance & mobile Cos, real estate agents (when the broker in Delhi who was helping me to find a ‘makaan’ revealed that he was actually a primary school teacher, I did not know where to look and my heart broke yet another time!) and also pimping (as the recent events, again in Delhi have shown). They can take up any petty job for a few rupees more. Tell me do they need to be revered? Yes, in their post as Teachers they need to be shown respect. But do you think that we should be inculcating the sense of worship with regard to teachers in the little minds? Can teachers impart the 'right moral and ethical values' setting themselves as an example to deserve such veneration?
Moreover with such reverence attached to them teachers are kind of shielded and in a way become unaccountable in ordinary circumstances. This equation with God is just like placing legislations under IX schedule so that they can escape judicial scrutiny.
Secondly, isn’t it right for the child to decide what should be worshipped and what needs to be regarded highly? Shouldn’t we be trying to develop that faculty of discernment in the child instead of just listing out things to be revered? Yes, I agree a teacher can be revered as next to God given certain qualities like intellectual caliber and discipline, integrity, commitment etc. But given the importance of children for a nation since they are the citizens of tomorrow, can we afford to consider these qualities in Teachers as ‘given’ and place the teachers on high pedestal for the gullible kids to unquestionably worship? Shouldn’t we be moulding the mind in the direction where he can passionately and independently pick and choose things that he should venerate. It can be books or plants or earthworms or dog’s tail or ship's front or aeroplane's wings or may be Teachers, who knows. But it will be his/her choice, right.
Thirdly, this entire Teacher-is-Divinity-Reincarnate is such a humbug strategy. It is another ploy to push the real issues underneath the carpet. It is just like what we did to women long ago. It’s like saying “ Look, we have made you God, what more can you ask of us. If you really do then you are just greedy!” The plight of the teachers, the problems faced by them like lack of infrastructure, lack of human resources, inadequate training, excess administrative work etc. are never given the consideration they deserve.
This entire veneration of teachers is out of place and context. Long back this guru-shishya business was part of our culture. Why should the State try to preserve the dying traditions by imposing them on the collective which are best practiced by the individuals at the personal level, if at all required? Once upon a time Vidyaadaana was considered Mahadana. In today's world, imparting of education cannot be treated as that. Teaching has become another professional service and it is no longer based on the personal relationship between guru and shishya. Teachers are not and also cannot be the most trusted source of knowledge and learning in today's TV, Internet-centric world. Oh, yes only a miniscule percentage of the school going children have access to those 'luxuries'. But the fact that even though they do not have direct access to the 'luxuries' directly, they are aware of such things is enough to destabilise the position enjoyed by the teachers. When role models are changing like a clothing fad, can teachers stay on in the competition? Can they be trusted to prepare the young ones for the responsibilities of life?
A teacher is no longer is required to do just a teaching job in schools. The society no longer looks upon them as the sculptors capable of chiseling young and influential minds for a specific purpose. Today they can play a greater and more significant role in a child’s life, if they want to. Instead of being just pedagogic they can act as a link interpreting the outside world to them.
Being born in to a family of teachers, I have always held teachers in high esteem. Even though, many times my confidence in the capacity and the competence of my teachers was shaken, I could never suspect their sincerity and commitment. Be it in schools or in colleges, the one-point agenda they all stressed was an all-round development of the personality. They transmitted some warmth besides creating that hunger for knowledge and other good things in life. They, in fact were doing all the things suggested by Abraham Lincoln in this letter to his son’s teacher.
I never gave anything to my teachers either during my student days or afterwards. I never gave them any cards or presents or roses in spite of the huge compulsory crushes I had on them. Like many of my generation would say, whatever I am today, it’s because of my Teachers. I was lucky. So Gurubyoh Namah!! Aaaah, Sounds really very very lame considering the place I have for them in my heart!

1 comment:

Atoorva said...

umm...mixed opinion on this post.
First, i would not consider only my school teachers as "teachers" ...What about some colleagues, may be some subordinates also...even friends who teach you valuable lessons of life .Believe me, these days google is my best teacher...I learn so much from it that i feel very indebted to Brin and Page for creating it ..without it I may be knowing far less than I know about the things and issues around me . So the reverance is due to all of these teachers as well.
But yes, the veneration and celebraton of teachers' day is out of context today because teachers are not what they used to least most of them are doing just a "job" .
I think more than this celebration we need to raise the salaries of govt.teachers upto the level of best paid professionals to attract talent for teaching . At present teaching is seen as the last resort after failure in other career options.