I opposed PM Narendra Modi’s Teacher’s Day speech on some grounds. It appears that those fears are already manifesting themselves.
To be honest, PM Narendra Modi’s speech today will not have anything, most skeptical of parents, can complain about. And although, any political person surpassing the parental control is not good ; the fear is not from the speech itself. The fear is from the encouragement that seeps down to lower mortals from such acts.
The PM’s Teacher’s day speech to the students may be compulsory or non-compulsory; but some PM fans and the die hard supporters of his party’s ideology , entrusted upon to implement the HRD Ministry’s circular , are going many extra steps forward to make it compulsory. For instance, only yesterday Delhi Public School (DPS) in Delhi, informed the parents and the students that questions from PM Modi’s speech , totaling 10 marks in each subject, will be asked in the upcoming examination. And such questions will be asked to all — Primary to Secondary. The circular thus advised the parents to make sure that their ward listens to the speech, even if at home. This is just one school, there will be countless Principals across India, who will be pushing PM’s agenda as their own.
What is wrong even if a Principal ensures that students listen to the PM’s speech ? On the surface of it, it may look like some educational exercise; but beneath the surface there is a real threat.
When the principal of a school goes all out to make a political act succeed or if he/she acts more than what he/she is told to do; then he/she sets a very wrong precedent for his/her staff. The teachers who consciously maintain silence about their own political leanings and their closet views regarding politics , take motivation from their Institution Head , and start bringing politics inside the classrooms. This means that the very thin line between education and propaganda begins to blur. Many parents may be alright with the political ideology of a certain party, but will they be alright if the force with which a teacher starts to propagate that ideology , directly or indirectly, in his classroom has real chances of clouding the child’s thinking? That’s what if the child starts seeing propaganda as fact and irrationality as logic? Let I give you two examples.
A friend once told an incident of his school days. Those where post 1984 days. He was in class 6th. A teacher quite impressed with right wing ideology, used to praise the ideology in the classroom, the moment he gets the opportunity. Once while teaching his lesson, he got an opportunity to boast about Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He started praising Vajpayee in Vajpayee’s oratory style. He started telling the 11 year olds, in mannerisms similar to Atalji, as to how great patriot he was. Specifically telling the class, how he gave his United Nations speech in Hindi. Adequately upbeat by the neurotic frenzy, he started as to how Hindu religion is greatest of all religions. He gave example, as to how cutting cake on birthday and blowing off the candle is foolish (Dina Nath Batra may be telling us to light a lamp on Birthdays now, but the very logic is with right wing since 1960s). In this sheer enthusiasm, he forgot that he had started monkeying around in the classroom. Seeing this, a student in front row giggled. This infuriated the teacher. He received a severe thrashing. Those days thrashing was believed to be good for students. And even when the student told his parents about the thrashing; they assumed that he may be acting mischievous in class.
Once a friend told me that a group of uncles not only gave them footballs to play in the evening; they also teach them history and other knowledgeable stuff. We were 9-10 year olds at that time. Hence, we went to the playground where this activity was taking place. After some PT type rituals we were told to shout some slogans. Then new entrants , me and one more guy, were told that we must address everyone, by suffixing a ‘ji’ after their name. It looked odd, but we abided. After letting us play football for 10 minutes, the elders told us to sit in a circle. And then the elders started teaching us history. I kept on with the activity the next day and the day after that. I told my father that we are learning really nice things these days. I told him, what the elders taught us the first day: Aurangzeb massacred 30 crore Hindus and created Castles with their Blood. My father asked who told me so. I told him about the evening Sports cum education Activity. He told me not to go there anymore.
Narendra Modi’s speech is an indication of the coming days. It will see many school teachers sprinkling over their lessons with things political. And since, this will be done without the express approval of the parents, hence it will be hard for parents to guide their wards amidst irrationality, propaganda and political talk.