Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Social Justice: Misplaced importance on education

When B.R. Ambedkar was insulted time and again for his caste, he figured out that the only way to get respect is by education. With his experience, it sounds just fine. Over the years, the importance of education continued to grow. To be fair to the system, it has given enough opportunities for the oppressed classes to be educated. But the story doesn't end here. There are millions who can't do well in education in its current state. We continue to see school drop-outs and kids reaching 10th grade without an ability to read in their mother tongue.

My interaction with such school drop-outs and poor performers showed one thing. (Not all of them belong to the oppressed classes.) They are fine without education. They know their interest is not in education. They have a good understanding of what they want to do in their lives. They can take up a profession that doesn't demand much skills. With their hard-work and some luck and support, they can lead a reasonably comfortable life. They are fine being drivers, delivery boys and maid servants. They are happy doing what they do; the good thing is, some are proud of their quality of work too. This has nothing to do with the education they attempted earlier in their lives. Had the education system been a bit sensible, they would be able to lead a better life. They would do better had there been some mentoring on areas like management of their money, basic sanitation and healthcare and human interaction.

I see the approach on education and reservation as two fold. The oppressed class must take to education, the better off class must let this happen. Nowhere we have tried to fix the primary problem that Ambedkar faced. It is that of disrespect to fellow humans for they belong to a different class or earn their living by physical activity. Nowhere in our education we stressed enough on a healthy human interaction. Being a doctor, engineer or a lawyer had been glorified; being rich is accepted; but being kind to all is never stressed. Though I am not for cultivated virtue, stressing the dependence within the society would have ensured some amount of courtesy to fellow humans. And nowhere we've talked about self-respect in its true sense.

We continue to see this disrespect shown to maid servants, laborers and anyone without equal or more power. And the power varies from situation to situation but discourtesy is the norm. The person driving a car is more powerful to the one driving a bike to a one riding a bicycle to a one walking. Disrespect flows throughout. We have created a situation where discourtesy is a way of life for all - irrespective of education, caste or religion. Now is the time to fix it.

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