India is poised at a very critical point in time and history, when we need to analyse whether we are moving in the right direction, and if not, why not. There is far too much moral and ethical decay in our society and even though the world is gradually emerging from the recent economic turmoil, globally people are unhappier than before.
For various reasons, India wasn’t as badly hit by the economic meltdown as was the Western world. But yet, there is persistent social unrest, intolerance, cynicism and corruption in our midst, not to speak of disease, poverty and exploitation. Gross national products may be rising in most countries including ours, but not gross national happiness. You just need to look around and see how many of us are living more depressed lives than before, full of strain, stress and breakdowns.
Somewhere at the bottom of this chaos, in nations, societies, institutions and families, is a breakdown, or crumbling of the human being. It all starts from there, and has to be addressed first. Somebody has got to stop the rot, and “why not you” is a line we all sing in our school song at Sanawar.
So how do we break out of this chakravyuh? I think a good beginning is for each individual to reform himself/herself, then the family and finally schools, in that order. Its the country’s youth, our children, who need to catalyse this change and create a better world. Yet who will train these youth? In families this duty devolves upon parents, and in schools, upon teachers.
Unfortunately, while parents consciously or unconsciously often inculcate antisocial values in their children by doing what is morally, if not legally wrong, they usually blame schools and teachers for not disciplining their children. I’ve known some parents who advise their children that to be successful, they often have to take the wrong path. When last year I had to deal with some children indulging in violence on the school campus, groups of parents of these children came in twice to oppose disciplinary action. One of them has even dragged me to court, while others have approached ‘high-ups’ to fix me.
This brings me to my central point, and that is, as teachers we have a greater responsibility to educate youth correctly. Surely there’s more to education than mastering the three Rs — reading, writing & arithmetic. In my opinion its all about creating good role models and leading by example, not just in classrooms but even on playing fields.
India’s massive 5.5 million teachers community has to get its act right. We can never give any-one else, least of all a child, something which we don’t have ourselves. For instance, do we as teachers love our students, and care for them, or are we in this profession primarily to earn our livelihood? Not that money isn’t important to maintain our families (and certainly we all should be paid well), but does the teaching community actually possess the sound values and character to endow the nation’s children?
Unfortunately, my experience of this profession says that too many teachers dump their own frustrations, insecurities, fears, and complexes onto their hapless students. Within our own disparate communities, we form groups, indulge in petty politics, become more interested in positions, promotions, money and character assassination, instead of focusing on children whom we should be teaching honestly, sincerely and passionately.
Therefore at this critical juncture in the nation’s history, it is important for all our teachers to look inwards. Teacher, first teach yourself not just the subject you are paid to teach, but good values, and rid yourself of lust, anger, greed, ego and attachment. Seek divinity within yourself. Rekindle that fire, yet experience peace within, and never forget that you have a sacred duty to discharge. You mould character, shape each child’s destiny, and thereby the destiny of the nation, and perhaps the world. The future is literally in your hands.
In 21st century education, the best of the east and West needs to be blended. Science, fine arts and spirituality have to be combined, and a balance struck between tradition and modernity. Of what use is education, if it cannot prepare a pupil to earn an honest livelihood and develop him/her into a good human being, before transforming them into competent professionals? I m reminded of the picture of Saraswati, the goddess of learning who holds a musical instrument in two hands (veena), a book in the third, and rosary in the fourth. Education without spirituality or divinity is like a corpse with makeup. Its not just makeup that we need, but ‘wake up’. When the Buddha was asked by one of his disciples whether he was God, guru, saint, teacher, or just a normal human being, the Master replied: “I am awake”. That’s what our youth needs to be. But for them to be awakened to their potential and possibilities, our teachers (and parents) need to awaken first.
Teachers awake, arise, and change the destiny of the world! Education is not just about loading knowledge within ourselves, but transferring our knowledge and values to ignite young minds. The end purpose should be good character. Together we can, and together we will make a difference. No peaks are impossible to conquer.
(Praveen Vasisht is headmaster of The Lawrence School, Sanawar)