Musings from the Middle Kingdom
The emergent nationalistic fervour, which has taken over the world over the last few years, paints a bleak outlook for the future. In the digital age, it is like we are returning to our tribal roots. Roots we had hoped to evolve out of. In such times, there is a statement from the mother of a child with severe learning disabilities that sticks to my mind. A child who could not give the required emotional or verbal response when helped.
“Not every time we give is rewarded, but every time we give, we definitely gain inner growth. That makes us more mature, resilient, and rational.”
We understand diversity and challenges a lot better when we give without seeking returns and that helps us to work towards not only improving life for ourselves but for others. Yet even the most simplest act of giving kindness and showing tolerance is becoming difficult. Why is it that our minds zero in on criticism the moment we hear a point of view which is indifferent? We respond with such aggressiveness that, at times it beggars belief.
Have we as educators failed our wards somewhere over the last generation?
How do we course correct?
I look at the current generation and see examples of extraordinary commitment at school, but for some, it is nothing more than an act to write on a letter of application. I see some committing to SDGs wholeheartedly and others just for the badge. Often an act of competition comes into play. Being better than the Joneses does not just stop at houses and cars; it is now prevailing into social work.
Have we created a culture of success with the bar raised so high that students in schools now see the act of giving or caring as another academic grade?
I have no answers, only hope that we continue to empower young people and provide them with opportunities to empathise. Not the two weeks mandatory work experience or a field trip but real meaningful experiences which leave lasting impressions. Opportunities for discussion and debate to flex their social and emotional learning muscles. Part of those experiences have to include dealing with digital indifference.
Most schools cover e-safety and Digital Citizenship, yet they don’t delve into the issues, in the kind of depth which is often required. Most children end up leading dual lives, and they get comfortable with it. Do we observe and correct their behaviour online as we do in the playground and corridors? Sure, schools do this for extreme examples, but what about the low-level stuff. The kind that builds into an embedded behaviour over long periods of time.
The cumulative effect of ignorance and teacher indifference can also make a lasting impression on young minds. Do you see the kids that play together? Are they all from the same tribe? What about the ones that eat together? Do you see the ones walking alone during break? The ones not invited to the class parties outside school. Do we avoid those tough conversations about racism, sexism, inequality and dehumanisation just because they don’t visibly exist in our community? Do we create opportunities for students to share their stories with us?
Failing to thoughtfully address toxic narratives does not stop them from infecting us. Do we feel empowered enough as educators to address them?
We have ended up creating schools as places to unlock academic potential. It’s about time we start working towards making them places to unlock the human potential.
I am Sunny Thakral. If you are here on the site then you know a bit about me. If not then I am a teacher and these are my musings.