Parents and teachers: What do you fill them with?

Indian parents caught up in the vertex of religious and cultural revivalism fill their children with awful ideas and values which do not have any place in 21st century. Children are filled with hostile thinking about the other who belongs to a different community.

Parents and teachers: What do you fill them with?

By Joe Palathunkal
It is the month of June, schools in India get lakhs of students who flock to the corridors of knowledge, and parents and teachers get ready to educate them. But what do they fill these young vessels with? That is the crux of the matter. When it comes to the ‘what’ of filling, India’s parents and teachers are in problematic junctures – the stuff they fill the children’s minds are often substandard to dangerous ones.

Indian parents caught up in the vertex of religious and cultural revivalism fill their children with awful ideas and values which do not have any place in 21st century. Children are filled with hostile thinking about the other who belongs to a different community and child carries this idea about the other right from his first standard to the 12th standard. Afterwards he or she is unable to reverse the thinking they were gifted with and the hostile mind-set grows into a nuclear bomb later paving the way for murderous attitudes. The other becomes a loathsome guy.

When it comes to the teachers, they too are handicapped – they can only teach the textbooks they are provided with and invariably these textbooks are filled with undesirable stuff which the students must not learn and what they must learn is totally thrown out.

Some state governments in their over enthusiasm to prove their nationalism even removed all the foreign writers and their thoughts altogether from the textbooks. William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth and others of their status could not find any place in the textbooks because they were from the West, anathema for the true Hindustani. It was indeed a shocking humour when a post-graduate in English literature told me that he had never heard about William Wordsworth.

If you don’t fill the minds and hearts with the vibrant thoughts and insights of giants, you will create dwarfs at the end of the day and poor teachers will be wasting their energy teaching students the most unwanted and the most useless. Instead of scientifically written history, they will teach myths, instead of science they will teach religion, instead of logic they will teach irrationalism. That is why one of the greatest education philosophers Thomas Aquinas insisted on “scientific learning”.

If the parents and teachers do not fill the minds and hearts of their children with dynamic stuff, these students think on the useless stuff they are provided with. As a result, the thoughts and ideas produced will be not only useless but they can be also dangerous doing immense harm to humanity. When Thomas Aquinas said “Beware the man of a single book” he meant books with vibrant contents that can facilitate further vibrant thinking that can give to the world dynamic thoughts that can bring radical changes.

Indian education system must produce astounding thinkers in the field of social science, physical science, philosophy and even theology and it will solely depend on what parents and teachers will fill the children with. The content of our textbooks should not be dictated and decided by ideological rogues or religious-cultural brutes. Indian education must produce such people as envisaged by John Dewey: “Anyone who has begun to think, places some portion of the world in jeopardy.”

“I came to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Luke 12: 49 – 50) This fiery thought from the greatest teacher ever born, must be the motto of every educationist and teacher. They must fill the minds and hearts of their students with such dynamic thoughts that would drive them to become thinkers who can set the world on fire. And that is the ultimate purpose of every education.

(Joe Palathunkal is Associate Editor, Living in Faith)

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