Sunday, June 06, 2010

Meaning lies in the minds of the readers

We were discussing how socialisation can be done through education in the class and our professor shared this account with us. It seems a lesson was introduced in some class text book in Kerala. The lesson went something like this. A child is taken to school by his parents for an interview. The principal asks the child his name. Then asks for the father's name, which happens to be a muslim name. Then for the mother's name, which happens to be a hindu name. Then he asks what religion should he put in the form for the child and the parents reply, no religion. The lesson ends here.

When someone like me reads this lesson, I think wow! that's liberal. Isn't it nice that children are provided the impetus to think, to create broad minds. But it seems that is not what the people in Kerala thought. The religious, especially the catholic community was in uproar. They saw this lesson as the Left's attempt at promoting atheism through education. Finally, owing to much opposition this lesson had to be removed from the curriculum. To none of us in the class it occurred that there might be any hidden agenda behind incorporating this lesson in the curriculum until, the Prof. mentioned the uproar it caused. She added that it could be a case of broad mindedness on the part of the curriculum developers in Kerala or it could be that the politicians better understand the power of education to socialise children to certain ideas or philosophies than the educators do.

That brought me to religion and the concepts surrounding it. Once I was chatting with a friend and we were discussing an a particular article which had to do with some religion. Since I don't bother with any religious identity, my friend asked me if I was an atheist. I said I am not. Why does one have to accept a religion to be a believer? Why can't one reject religion and still be a believer? But I guess it is important for most to subscribe to some form of 'ism'. To develop individual identity is to tread on dangerous grounds. It is safe to be part of a group, in this case believer or non-believer. For majority there seems to be no scope for a middle ground.


Seema Smile said...

It is best to leave religious references out of children's textbooks completely. However, no history lesson seems to be complete without chapters on violent invasions and wars fought in the name of religion. So, do we keep our children completely in the dark about history concerning these events? Tough call.
I agree with you about being a believer yet not belonging to a religion. Too difficult to explain to the census guys though!

Flying Machine said...

Why do you think reference to religion should not be made in textbooks? Why should education be window dressed?

Seema Smile said...

Because when a textbook is written the contents are usually whetted by the current govt. in power. They tend to include their pet topics (including religious ones) and a whole generation grows up lapping up distorted facts. Although I am not sure how else such topics can be taught to students. But unless there truly is a neutral body dealing with the subjects, topics that massage the egos of political parties should be left out and those include stuff much beyond religion.

Flying Machine said...

So it is not the topics to teach but political interest that is the problem!

The Wanderer said...

I've always believed that history is quite subjective. Your "freedom movement" could be my "terrorism". History takes the tone and perspective of the one who records it.
Also, "Black v/s White" has been built into our collective psyche. Thus the failure to understand the 'creams' or 'greys', I believe.
For most, it seems like too much work to look beyond what is given and find out if anything else can exist / be created.
And, by the way, till the point where you wrote about the uproar against the lesson, I too thought that the lesson was super-cool. Naïve...huh ? :)

Flying Machine said...

:) Yeah but whatever the political agenda I still think it was a cool lesson.