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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Poetic condemnation

A well-known poet in Kerala (I thought the tribe had become extinct in India!) has 'begged' the government to exclude his poems from school textbooks, because he hates to see them mutilated and insulted by dumb teachers and dumber students alike. Alongwith he has said some harsh home truths about what education has become in India over the last thirty years. The same sort of thing that I have been saying for donkey's years. Do read the news item.

Meanwhile, the same paper carried on its front page a full-page advertisement from one of those hugely successful cram shops which promise, for an outlandish fee, to make your idiot son an Einstein (read cybercoolie in Bangalore). That is exactly what both the poet and I condemn. But that, alas, is all that 99 per cent of Indian parents want out of education. You want shit, you get shit.

P.S., April 05: 1) Devi Kar, Director of Modern High School Kolkata, whose writing I have quoted before, has written this article about the growing and obnoxious 'commodification' of education. I hope the parents of today's kids in school, who would be the generation that I coached and harangued 25 to 30 years ago, would take note, and look at themselves in the mirror, and wonder how they have become this gullible, this stupid, this harmful for their children. I conclude, as Mrs. Kar does, that I realize how out of sync I am with the times. I also keep advising my own daughter that if ever she comes into this profession in any capacity, she must be very well aware of the current reality, both if she wants to change it a little for the better and if she just wants to profit from it.

2) The same newspaper today informs me that certain doctors in Kolkata hospitals are being paid two to three crore rupees a year by way of salary. Now I know very clearly why medical costs have gone through the roof. Once upon a time medicine was supposed to be a crucial service, and doctors, while they had as much right as the next man to a decent living, were expected not to be greedy like any other trader. And let not anybody give me crap about how much they had to study and how hard they have to work to make money. Lots of others, from rural schoolteachers to soldiers and senior bureaucrats, research scholars and people who do very unpleasant and risky manual labour all their lives have to do with much less, simply because they have not been able to con the public and corner the market as well have doctors have. It is all, as we socialists have always said, about who manipulates the levers of the political economy (the same goes for education, too. In a dispensation where all schools hired only competent teachers, paid them decent salaries and forced them to do their duty properly, private tutors and cram shops would not have made hay as they are doing now - myself included).

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