20 August 2006

What is the main point?

Yesterday, I attended a talk by my boss and teacher Jyoti Sanyal on writing. The audience consisted of school teachers who taught English. Sanyal, essentially, was trying to drive home the point that children, when left alone, uninterrupted by adults, can be creative. It’s we adults who spoil the fun.

Of course, quite a few teachers were up in arms at the idea that teachers in India often stifle the child. But this woman had me stupefied. She gets up and throws this question at Sanyal, “I’d asked the children to write an essay on going to a picnic in the forest. And this kid comes out with the story that he was lost in the forest, and then he became a tree, and bore fruits. When children go away from the main idea like this, don’t you think we should correct them?”

I wanted to ask her, “What then is the main idea, ma’m?” I didn’t have the opportunity to, because she was being already being ragged by quite a few.

What is this obsession with the main idea? Is there a main idea at all? Does there have to be a main idea? And how does the teacher assume that becoming a tree and bearing fruits is not a main idea for the kid? Why, oh why, do we have to assume that there is one main idea, and it is, was, and always shall be for the rest of mankind?

If the same story was written by some damned pseudo-academic and then included in the curriculum, I am sure the same teacher would be cramming the story down her students’ gullets. But, it was just a kid who’d written this non-sense. It was her bounden duty to correct him. The child would then be forever doomed to searching for the main idea. Remember, he’s been told it’s out there.

And then, morals. Oh, I must tell you this one. Sanyal asked the teachers why they couldn’t tell children stories without morals, like that of Ashwatthama. Again, a very disturbed teacher asked him, “What do you mean? We don’t need to teach our children morals? Should there be no morality at all?”

And it suddenly struck me that this is the root of all fundamentalism. The need to see things in just two colours, the denial of a million other hues that do exist, the urgency to defend ‘yourselves’ against ‘them’ - all spring from the thought that there is a moral to a story and that there is a main idea.

This world sucks way too much man.


Pradeep ಗೌಡ said...

Nice post,
I can picture that teacher in her `rightful` indignity defending her "morals"

ಅವರ ಕೋಳಿ ಕೂಗಲಿಲ್ಲ ಅಂದರೆ ಬೆಳಕೇ ಆಗೋಲ್ಲ ಅನ್ನೋ ಜಾಯಮಾನ....

Vijayalaxmi said...

Pradeep: :) Welcome.

Vijay shankar ganesh K said...

Could'nt agree more

Lincoln said...

the main colony

The main idea - the rationale still colonizes our mind. Children are Orientals. Their imagination's exotic meanderings veer far from what they should be thinking and writing. If this is what our teachers believe - then totaliarianism colonizes the mind right in the classroom.

Who needs a right to information act? We must think like we are told...

Anonymous said...

swear i say. viji. but what are the limits? i remember (some time back)while hanging out at a nursery, i just watched from the terrace as one male female tot played with a femle tot. He was simulating buggering. without lifting clothes or anything. the girl tot was not ired but puzzled and i didnt see the need to intervene. the maid came and squealed and ten broke them up and then looked at me, noting i had watched the whole without stepping in. but i hadnt seen anything wrong in what they were doing.

Vijayalaxmi said...

Linc: Aye aye sir

Finny: Yeah, agree. A (psychology) teacher of mine Sridharmuthy once said that the child is as conscious of its body as it can be. Ask any child to strip. He/she will never do that, if you are not his/her mother/father.

Sexuality is not an accessory you pick up in your teens. As we discussed the other day, we had our first crushes way back... remember ;)

SloganMurugan said...

Caption according to the kid who saw this pic: My brother from another brother. Kids!

Vijayalaxmi said...