By Archana Nataraj
(In this article, Archana, a Shishuvan parent and frequent blogger writes about how teachers and parents have the responsibility to help children understand values and ethics. She wrote this article for her blog, which you can visit by clicking here.)
As India continues to seethe in fury after the rape, so many new dimensions of this issue have been thrown in to the fray. I saw a good round up in the Hindustan Times (click here to read)
To me, a lot of this deals with the parent and teacher responsibilities. In Ignited Minds, Abdul Kalam says “If parents and teachers show the required dedication to shape the lives of the young, India would get a new life. A proper education alone can nurture a sense of dignity and self-respect among our youth .These are qualities no law can enforce – we have to nurture it ourselves”
But is todays’s education system equipped to shape the impressionable minds? Is there a focus on values in education? Before the nuclear family became dominant, every home had a grandparent who had the time to sit down and indulge the young in a story. I vividly recall my grandfather telling me the simplest of the values of Unity is Strength in the birds flying off with a hunter’s net story. Later my mother used to narrate these stories of Karna ,explaining the tough choices between choosing to be a true friend or choosing those who were your brothers in blood only. Or the generosity of King Sibi or justice of Birbal.. and the list goes on.
Today, these are all considered passé..only in books. The Character ethic as Stephen Covey calls them- integrity, industry, courage, patience are all replaced by quick fixes..Personality skills, public speaking , “image consulting” are the order of the day. Not that these are not essential in todays fast pace competitive life but they are secondary…But where is the time to preach these priorities? As a parent of two, in a nuclear family.. as much as I try , our night time Bath –Book-Bed Routine often goes for a toss and it is often ends in “Go to bed else you will be late for school”.
Which is why it is so so important for the schools to also focus on building character? Children spend a lot of time in schools and if the teacher is skilled in enough, Value education can and must be included in school. Talk about the need to be honest and truthful, to rush out there and help even if means missing whatever you set out to do. It upsets me that these two young lives lay there naked on the road until the cops came.. no one rushed to a hospital , no one even covered them…No one is even talking about this question.
And yes, open up. Be ready to challenge your boundries..Sex cannot be taboo.. Answer the questions your children ask.. don’t brush them away.. It may not be the whole details but it has to the truth…Whether it is good touch and bad touch told to my three year old or a brief two lines answer when my dear 6 yr old asks why is that eunuch begging on the road wearing women’s clothes?
The influence of popular culture is another thing that the school and parents can address. While I can wish that a successful heroine doesn’t need to a Chikni Chameli item number or the switch the channel and grimace when my 6 year old daughter sings öh la la la.. ab mein jawaan ho gayin”.. Do we have the guts to face it head on and explain why it is demeaning to women? Discuss why the hero taking law in to his own hands is not ok? Why it is not ok for the hero keep eve- teasing or passing derogatory “mard” dialogues? A debate in class may be just the nudge that is necessary to bring out half baked ideas and questions that young boys and girls may not have had the courage to ask anyone.Then may be a young girl wouldnt die by letting a boyfriend poke her with a screwdriver to abort a pregnancy
My kids go to Shishuvan : a school that includes gender equality in its mission. Both boys and girls wear the same kurta and full pant uniform.. that declares loudly.. that in the school we are equal students. As a girl, my school uniform does not curb my freedom to play or even sit in any way I want . In the light of the current rape case, I salute this step..whose complete value even I did not appreciate until last week. The same school also had a debate for older kids on love stories.
This is the kind of change we need. A need to focus on where we lack and then bring it to the forefront , clear any misconceptions and keep a dialogue open ..As parents and teachers, to our students and children ….we need to build strong minds that even when subjected to junk from the world around can make out that it is junk .
Like one of my favourite lines from the movie “The American President” with Michael Douglas
Lewis Rothschild: People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They’re so thirsty for it they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.
President Andrew Shepherd: Lewis, we’ve had presidents who were beloved, who couldn’t find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don’t drink the sand because they’re thirsty. They drink the sand because they don’t know the difference