Genuine Fear or Snobbery

Here’s an article from DNA newspaper, Bangalore. After reading it I have to say i was left feeling very uneasy (though conscious that there may have been some journalistic ‘spicing up’ to make a story out of it):

DNA Bangalore Article

What disturbed me was how two separate issues in the Right to Education Act (RTE) have apparently been merged in to a single issue:
a) Issue 1 is a requirement for all private schools to give over 25% of new seats in their admission year to take in children from economically weaker sections of the society,
b) Issue 2 is that no school would be allowed to suspend, discipline or expel any child up to Class VIII.

To see the two issues merged in this way smacks of snobbery to me. No wonder the parents quoted wouldn’t give their names. Where I come from there’s a name for this – NIMBY-ism, NIMBY standing for ‘Not In My Back Yard’. It means – yes, of course these children should have access to a decent education, but not in MY child’s school.

The suggestion that the innocent and blessed bachhas of the private schools might learn bad language from these children from ‘the wrong side of the tracks’. In my experience (and this goes certainly for UK and India), the worst ‘bad’ language is known and practiced by those at the very top and the very bottom of the society (socio-economically).

I grew up as a middle class kid, with a father in the army. When i was 11 I was admitted to an expensive English boarding school (paid for by the state because i passed some exams) instead of following my parents around the world like a nomad. The first few weeks amongst these ‘rich kids’ were a revelation and an ‘education’ my parents hadn’t bargained on – boy did I learn some spicy language!

Now before anyone cries out – “but that doesn’t apply in TSRS” I would caution them to stop for a moment – I move around amongst our students enough to know what goes on. There are also enough parents, teachers and others who can tell me – so i know that many have colourful and extensive vocabulary in both English and Hindi!!

Both Issue a) and Issue b) are very important and should have been part of a wider debate in the country long before now, but separately – no together. It’s not too late, but we do need the debate to be kept at a level where it doesn’t sink in to the realms of petty snobbery and classism.

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2 Responses

  1. The other day my son was recounting an exchange between two of his friends and happened to mention the hindi cuss word “sala”. I promptly asked him what it means. He replied he doesn’t know exactly but it is a bad word. Similarly, yesterday I asked him the meaning of the word “gawar”, I had come across the word on his facebook wall page where one of his friends called another that. My son informed me that it means “useless” and that again, it is a bad word. I do not know the meaning of gawar myself, not being a hindi speaking native, but I’m sure it is to be clubbed with the likes of “sala”. Obviuosly, he is learning this language from his well-heeled friends who abound in TSRS.

    Coming to how the sterile school environment shall be contaminated by the so called socially and economically backward children, does not this irrational fear defeat the very purpose of sending our kids to a “good” school? We all look to educators mainly but also to friends and parents, collectively to shape and mold our children to become exemplary human beings. Surely, my son did not learn such language from the teachers of TSRS but from his friends who have heard their parents use those words undiscerningly in front of them? And these parents most definitely do not belong to the disadvantaged class in any sense but for the most common of all.

    At this point, I must admit that I myself have been guilty of such language, especially when I used to drive my son around to and fro his various extra-curricular classes. I have no excuses except that such language sublimated the acute road rage that used to take a hold on me when I had to navigate amidst the mad drivers of our country. I am as guilty as any other but I have courage enough to admit it.

    • I too have to confess to the odd expletive as an alternative to road rage whilst driving. However, the key here is not knowing or using ‘some bad words’ – that alone will not make or break a character.

      The issue is one of context. I once played rugby with a vicar in England. In the context of a rugby field or club house he knew, accepted (and occasionally under severe provocation, used) the choicest of language. However, there is no way he would ever have used in the presence of his parishioners.

      I don’t think I’ve ever sworn in the presence of my mother or a teacher. That’s where something has changed – today’s children appear to show less respect for context. The result – they learn this language and then use it freely in all contexts (I blame Hindi so-called ‘family movies’ partly – they contain loads of bad language used freely in any and every context.

      Understanding, and then choosing to respect, context is about caring about the impact of communication on recipients – a respect for ‘other-ness’. In the broader sense, i fear that’s the part our children are losing and that’s a character issue that can come back to bite them later.

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