Sunday, June 29, 2008

When illiterates Decide What to Teach "100% Literate Kerala"

The Unwanted Controversy
By P.C. Menon

For the last one week or so, the streets of Kerala are agog with the agitation launched by the youth wings of the opposition parties. Khadi clad men run around pelting stones and the policemen make merry with sticks and teargas shells. Broken foreheads, bloodstained shirts, shouting young men fleeing from the police and the men in khaki wielding their wares in self-defense and in counter-attack, all steal the show in the visual media. The ruling and opposition parties blame one another for this calamity.

It all started with the introduction of a text book in the 7th Class for Social Studies. The book is supposed to contain all "modern thoughts" meant to reform the students, according to the Education Minister and the party that supports him; the opposition comes from all those who are not in power – political parties, religious groups, and some social organizations. More are threatening to join the fray. The youth wings of the ruling party are getting ready to defend the Government in their own way. The funny thing is that not many have seen or read the book; those who support or oppose the book generally act on hearsay. Nobody really knows the worth or 'unworthiness' of the book. The struggle will end only when the book is totally withdrawn, if we can believe what the agitators say.

I was fortunate enough to get the first three chapters of the book through internet. I have made a thorough study of the contents and, with my 32 years of teaching experience and more of the political atmosphere existing in Kerala, I am bound to say that this is a thoroughly unwanted controversy. For one thing, the book doesn't fulfill any of the requirements of a teachable text; secondly, the presence of such a book in the State Curriculum in the 7th Standard is not going to make much of a difference in the social atmosphere of Kerala or the academic brilliance of the student. This is especially true because the student is assured of 100% pass up to the 9th standard and in SSLC, one seldom fails! (Little wonder why we can claim to be 100% literate so easily, and then show no sign of it beyond the claim!)

The only effect that this book is likely to bring about is a major tear in the social fabric, a severe breakdown of law and order. Peace in the State will be terribly disturbed as the followers of Gandhi have discarded Sathyagraha and Ahimsa and have taken themselves to the streets; the followers of Marx are already famous for their militancy. Other groups who are more vociferous and villainous have offered to add fuel to the fire. The policy is to go to the street, attack the policemen, get beaten up and complain about police atrocities. How long will this continue and what will be the ultimate fallout? Not even God knows in God's own Country!


MC said...

while i absolutely agree that religious and communal/ caste-based divisions should be totally eliminated from the minds of children, the real motive behind these edits are under question. if its a genuine effort, it certainly needs to be welcomed.

but i also hear that there are other edits and questions, which are really absurd and silly - which again raises doubts on the true intentions behind these revisions.

MC said...

on second thoughts, more than the children, these edits appear to be working to make the people of kerala sit back and think (and fight) about religion and caste, and taking fresh advantage of the divide for political and ulterior gains.

silverine said...

Reminds me of the edits the BJP made, when they came in power at the centre. Though the lesson you mention may not be harmful, it will usher in a habit of interference from politicians if not opposed. Let the SSLC board deicide the curriculum and not the ruling party!

scorpiogenius said...

There is something more to this issue than Page 24. May be there is a point in the article by Mr.Menon, but we cant deny the obvious effort in the text to inculcate leftist ideas. Page 24 seems to have taken the centrestage for wrong reasons but the textbook needs to be taken back to the editors board.

What is Channar samaram, Gowri Amma speech, Kayyur rebellion and all those sorts of things doing in a history text book. Now I'm not arguing that these musn't be taught, but when all of these leftist ideologies collectively make its appearance, its natural that you get some frowned faces and uncomfortable questions.

In the beginning, I ridiculed the striking factions and the clueless religious leaders for their stand in this issue, but it appears that there are more to this than a simple page 24. I've changed my opinion about this text book as a whole after getting to go through the whole chapters...

There is certainly a wrong intention in this text book, and this needs to come out of the classrooms if we dont want an even more spoiled generation.

R.Sajan said...

The Catholic church has gone crazy with an illusory sense of power ever since Sonia Gandhi became Empress of India. At least in Kerala, they have been trying to go back to the decadent times of the beginning of the Roman Church. That the NSS and the Moslems have joined hands with the Church is immaterial. Even in the Vimochana Samaram, these had kept away in the beginning, but had mobbed up after suitable monetary inducements had been arranged by the Church and the foreign agencies.

The militant and avaricious clergy would do well to consider whether this is not the beginning of the end of Church's infallibilty in Kerala. The new economic order might help the Church initially, but will lead it to a state similar to the American situation of irrelevance in a few years.

For the time being, the laity should go to court against the arrogant Bishops and the immature lower clegy's using places of worship for political anarchy.

Pillai said...

I have studied in the colleges outside Kerala. The first thing I noticed is that the absence of students unions backed by political parties. There student unions are mostly involved in the activities useful to the career growth of the students. In Kerala the situation is different. I have met couple of students who came to the University after finishing schooling in Kerala to do professional courses. They told me that it’s not possible to do the course in Kerala because of "distractive activates" of the student unions.

Also the students taking laws into their own hands and bug classes must see that how many children of their leaders are involved in this and studying in the colleges and schools they study.

Pillai said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

@sajan: your comment on a religion just goes to show how illiterate you are on the topic. It is all very well to draw hypotheses and assumptions, but avoid jumping to conclusions without correct knowledge and info.

-concerned citizen

Anonymous said...

People of Kerala are fed up with this government and its incapability in handling issues. All are mentally prepared to welcome a dismissal of this useless government. Other than doing their communist agenda no development no decesion making only partisanism.

Why DYFI attack protestors where police is still there. Didnt SFI burnt buses and disrupt like over death of one rajani and finally its now came to knowledge taht she commited suicide becaue of love affair with an SFI leader/ How much govt property was destroyed at that time.

manuscrypts said...

just in case they needed an excuse to get on to the streets!!

PCM said...

@ all
I am glad that the post has invited so many comments, mostly against the Government and its supporters. The issue has caught the attention of the Government, its supporters, the opposition, the clergy and all the youth wings of the political parties.The only demand is 'withdraw the book'. Streetfights will go on until this is achieved.
So far, nobody was bothered about the number of working days lost in schools and colleges every year because of political interference, How much of the lessons allotted were taught at the end of the year, how well did the students perform in the exams. All those who join the First Standard will pass through the ten-class long tunnel and come out successful, thanks to Baby's magnanimity. A day will come when the SSLC holder may not be very sure of the Alphabet either in English or Malayalam! Perhaps, the right reason why Baby's children are taught in the Public Schools of Delhi.

Vinod/Kakka said...

Well, when religion is drilled into every Indian since birth, cannot irreligousity be drilled in at 7th grade? Every religion in Kerala is getting talibanized. Education should be good enough to tell students early enough that religion and God are not the only things that shape their destiny and identity.

About history, there needs to be near term history taught as well: The land reform act changed Kerala like nothing before it, in both good and bad ways.

This textbook also has a part about a landlord saying that he will not farm his land, laborers taking out a protest and a seemingly middle class person taking offense that the protest is affecting him. I did not see anything in the text book justifying any of these. Isn't it time that children could discuss this in class? Or should there be an accepted mindshare of how things are, who is right etc?

R.Sajan said...

To Annonymous:

Matthew Chapter 21-

12. And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,

13. And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

14. And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.

Anonymous said...

What the communist govt has done is thoroughly nonpartisan and totally progressive. I dont understand why congress wud make such a fuss.Are not the kids allowed to learn for themselves?? While the textbooks can talk the major religions involved, why not they broach the subject of no-religion??Isn't that an option for children?? Who are we to impose certain religions on the children??? Once we teach them how to be rational, would they not be in a position to decide for themselves?? What is the religious organisations afraid of?? Schools--should not they be an avenue for propagating new ideas, imagination and discussions. What the opposition and religious types do would only restrict such freedom, wouldnit it?? Most developed countries do boast of such a curriculum. If kerala leads other states in India into such an arrangement (LIKE WE HAVE ALWAYS DONE TO INDIA),why are they so obstructionist??
And most developed countries try to get rid of religion (through indirect means) to promote social cohesion and thereby strengthen nationhood, Is it any wrong that this progressive govt tries to achieve the same??
And finally,most liberal developed countries do try to achieve an exam free atmosphere till they reach a mid teen age....only to take the pressure of exams so that they can fully comprehend the complexities of the subject they are taught..Kerala is only following them rather than other backward states in India.

Well done would be what I say to communist government.

S George Padinjare.

Anonymous said...

When Britain can include beetles in its textbooks as part of history, can anything be fi=unnier than that?? This govet has not done anything that absurd.

Unknown said...

history is written by the victors..
but come on, every five years??

Anonymous said...

I am a Christian. Yet I feel that the Church's attempt to flex its political muscle is plain wrong. The quotations from Gospel of Mathew are apt.

@anaonymous: Beatlemania *is* a notable event in history. :-)

PCM said...

Very true. The religions that claim minority rights have always flexed their political muscles and persuaded the respective governments to come their way. Is it possible to end this trend by including in one text book some 'chosen' excerpts from what great men have said? Will the present government itself do their best to placate these warring religious factors, come next election?
what I mean to say is that this is absolute hypocrisy attempting to fight theocracy.

Anonymous said...

@pcm's statement..Its absolute hypocrisy attempting to fight theocracy.

First of all, communist govt was not fighting theocracy (a state governed by religion), but curtailing the future growth of religions by making a start.

And its not hypocricy because there are men and women who fervently believe in a state where there is no militant religious divisions and even better so to have no institutionalized religions.And they have made a start. ISN'T THAT COMMENDABLE????????

And you think they wre just mere words in textbooks. In fact they are a mighty weapon one can ever use.

SG Padinjare

Anonymous said...


I meant beatlemania though not a serious event still has found prominent place in textbooks.

As an aside,Rajnikanth could be entering TN textbooks in future, for the same reason as beatles. would you think??

Sam said...

It is God's own country with dogs on controls.

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