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BW Businessworld

Analysis: The Wonder Of Why

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A news report, a text, breathe your opinion. Your language, choice of words and order of paragraphs speak your opinion. A friend once said, there are no facts, there are only opinions. So the media needs to take responsibility for its choices of content, slant and tone. 
 
Schools reflect the real world, much like other parts of society, the microcosm and the macrocosm. What to do if the children ask ‘was the police officer a bad man?’ Should I endorse their feelings or should I deflect the question? Can such a question be answered directly?  Or is it best answered by silence? Or…
 
Make what you may of my silence, my child. 
At least I did not feed you lies!
‘Why’ is a difficult question, child...
The first ‘Why’ usually takes us to the surface,
The second — how much we take for granted,
The third ‘Why’ brings us face to face with the depth of our ignorance, a la C.V. Raman in ‘Why The Sky Is Blue’ (http://www.arvindguptatoys.
com/arvindgupta/raman.htm)
By then the whys multiply, leading to wonder,
To unknown facts, exciting questions,
uncomfortable unanswered answers.
 
Why did the police officer hurt the girl?
What happened to her hurt? 
Why did no one listen? 
The papers, why were they quiet for 19 years?
The quiet cops, were they terrified, embarrassed?
Or did they protect the wrong doer?
When I am older, and commit a wrong,
will the cops and court protect me too?
Will I too be able to get away with just a tap?
 
Aha! That’s how it works! 
If you have profit, you have power!
You don’t go to jail or pay for your crime, 
protected by money, protected by power! 
So teacher, please, don’t teach me useless stuff.
Teach me the real world! Teach me how to fulfill my heart’s desires; ads do.
Teach me to get all I crave; the market does!
I want to look good, like in the magazines,
the stars and the beautiful people.
Did they get there playing by the rulebook? 
Or did they duck when inner questions 
flew fast and thick?
No one got anything by answering questions.
‘Just do it’ is the only mantra! Don’t ask how!
 
If you see walls, break them. 
If rivers block your path, suck them dry!
Life is an opportunity, and I have just this one.
Teacher oh teacher, don’t waste my time.
Fill my mind with dreams of power.
I hear it so loud that I can’t hear your song
of respect and dignity, of right and wrong.
I learnt it all very early, so did my friends.
 
You are tall and grownup, did they somehow leave you out?
Teacher, is that why you are still at school?
Teach me that nothing matters beyond power. Show me how to bury questions and confusions.
Surely you know that this is just a game, this talk of morals and values, goodness and decency.
Or, did they forget to tell you?
Surely you know I need the prize, 
to stand tall a victor. 
But  I need to quell the little voice within,    the one that asks questions…
Teach me to smile, when I have done wrong,
To forgive myself and deny all wrongs.
 
Teacher oh teacher, I have nothing against you!
You may not know, but you are in a tight spot.
For you can neither speak the truth nor endorse power.
But know, I was here when yet young, unformed, often I spoke the honest truth;
I was licked into shape with jeers and taunts.
I have learnt my lessons, I learnt what pays. 
So Teacher, will you still stand alone?
Or soon sell your soul to the spell of the market? 
 
Why is the school, the last of institutions standing, to be left with this hopeless mandate? Why is there such little support for the emergence of intelligence in the young and old? Could it be that we actually don’t love our children? If we did, would we not find a way out?
 
Have we, the society, chosen power over care, efficiency over effectiveness, the cat that runs away with the pie over the larger good? And, therefore, have we chosen lament over hope? And if this is what we wish to burn into the consciousness of our children, there is no better broth we can offer. An anachronistic school system and powerful surround messages reinforcing the opposite.
 
G. Gautama is director of The Chennai Education Centre of Krishnamurti Foundation India (KFI). He was principal of The School (KFI) from 1991 to 2009
(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 01-02-2010)