Wednesday, 6 April 2011

I regret for being educated

I understand that while raising such questions educated people (like me) may think that my views are cynical. However, I think time has come to self-assess our own role, as a so-called educated person,  in the society.

Quite recently, I am collecting news reports on anti-humanity, corruption, violence, conflict and war from various national newspapers for my own research purpose. As it is not possible to bring all of them here, I will try to cover them under major themes. Let me start with a killing of a college girl. In June 2009, Khyati Shrestha was killed by her own teacher Biren Shrestha. He amputated the body, kept in the refrigerator for some days and threw different parts in different places. He demanded ransom even after killing Khyati with the help of his another student. You can read the detail news here and watch the video in this site Similar kind of crime was committed by a Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Armed Policy Force last moth (January,22, 2012). The DIG killed his wife, took away her dead body in his own car and burned it (You can read the news details at this link  Brawls among students supporting different political parties are usual practice in campuses (please watch this video The involvement of political leaders in the abuse of the authority of various natures always dominate the pages and screens of media. The abuse of red passport is only one example.

If we critically analyze above news we find the involvement of literate/educated people in these crimes. This situation raises some questions: Why are educated people more hostile, dishonest, impatient, inhumane and egotistic? Are they contributing to social development  and harmony or creating mistrust and violence? I understand while raising such questions all educated people (like me) may think that my views are cynical. However, I think time has come to self-assess our own role, being so-called educated people, in the society . Is our education system able to prepare students to work for the prosperity of human civilization? Are our schools and universities able to produce students who can do something independently and sincerely for humanity and democracy? These are some representative questions that emerge from the sample news reports mentioned above.

At this moment, I remember what my late grandfather reminded my father when he decided to send me to school. He said that children should not be sent to school because they become dishonest and lazy. He confidently reiterated that children learn how to cheat others, become immoral and leave their parents and society when they are educated. Before 26 years, I thought that my grandfather had very traditional and illogical judgment about the value of education. I thought he was so prejudiced orthodox Limbu old man who never liked to send their grandchildren to school.

But after reading and watching representative news reports as mentioned above for two years above, I now realize that my grandfather’s words were full of wit and wisdom. His views exactly echo  what H. L. Mencken, a famous American columnist and essayist says, ‘the main thing children learn in school is how to lie’. His views reflect what Everett W. Reimer, says in his book School is Dead (1971): ‘parents and grandparents have never known schools as places they expected their children to attend. They do know, however, what schools imply. Going to school means leaving the traditional life, moving to a different place, laying aside physical burdens for the work of the tongue and the mind…’. (The book is available online at

While analyzing my grandfather’s opinions in relation to the involvement of educated people in various heinous activities, I find that, we, educated people are more cruel, hostile and uncooperative than the uneducated ones. With due respect to all those who have been doing magnificent works for the society, most educated people (including myself) seem to be more selfish, unsympathetic, and unsocial than the uneducated ones. We, educated people, who live mostly in urban areas with romantic charisma of globalization and pop culture, can never become a neighbor with the people living next door or room or house. Of course, these are all due to our orthodox hierarchical education system in which we are indirectly teaching our learners to be dishonest, lazier, hostile, egoistic and unsocial indirectly.

A famous educationist Ivan Illich wrote a ground-breaking book Deschooling Society (1971) in which he strongly argues that ‘by the time children go to school, they have learned how to use their bodies, how to use language and how to control their emotions. They have learned to depend upon themselves and have been rewarded for initiative in learning. In school these values are reversed’. (For details, Critiquing on the commodification of knowledge in institutionalized education system, Illich asserts that for schools ‘knowledge is a valuable commodity which under certain circumstances may be forced into the consumer [learners]. Schools are addicted to the notion that it is possible to manipulate other people for their own good’. Illich’s assessment resonates both how I was taught and I, as a teacher, am teaching now. Rather than giving chances to exercise learners’ natural potentialities and creativity, I often force my students to follow what I think is right. They cannot ask any question and share their views constructed in their rich socio-cultural contexts. I never count them as an agency and rich source of capital. By doing this, I am killing students’ ability to self-initiate and take ownerships of their own learning. Moreover, I am simply transferring prefabricated chunks of knowledge as specified in the curriculum which may not really address my learners’ needs who come from different cultura and linguistic backgrounds. I am making my students dependent, lazier, and a consumer.

Our classroom practices are instrumental for producing uncooperative and hostile learners. We create neither collaborative learning atmosphere nor try to generate diverse ideas (considering learners themselves as an abundant source of learning) so that learners can negotiate their own world views. We hardly give students chances to work and interact with friends and teachers. On contrary to this, illiterate or uneducated people in villages seem to be so cooperative. We feel the warmth of love and respect among the uneducated and rural people.

Although we aim to develop democracy and inclusion in society through education, our classroom practices are dominated by undemocratic and exclusionary deeds. We never bother engaging our students to set their own agendas and find their own learning style. We aim to build a peaceful world through education. But we, directly and indirectly,  are terrorizing children in school both mentally by giving excessive rote learning practices and homework without considering their cognitive level. We always tend to impose what we know. Ivan Illich contends that "The claim that a liberal society can be founded on the modern school is paradoxical. The safeguards of individual freedom are all cancelled in the dealings of a teacher with his pupil".

We have already isolated children from their society while teaching such contents which are not related to their life. Being a so-called educated man, I regret for not being able to meet my own granny and parents for three years. Sometimes, I feel bad about myself for being a so-educated man. Why is this modern education system  too much urban oriented? Why do educated people  not like to go back to their society? I should have returned  my village if the education I received had focused on the importance of rural life,  language, culture and indigenous knowledge. Unfortunately, through the present education system we are increasing children’s ambitions that can never be achieved. Isn’t it a good example of hypocrisy in education?

Margaret Mead, a famous anthropologist, once said, “My grandmother wanted me to have an education, so she kept me out of school.” This leaves a great implication that schools may not provide education in real sense. We need to assess how they are helping children to become independent, social, respectful, patient, adaptive and democratic.