When I was growing up, I had a mortal fear of the school and the teachers who were lurking there. That could be the possible reason why I skipped most of my schooling. That’s also the reason why I learnt to study on my own to learn new topics. I spent most of my childhood staying home playing with my brother and in the process invented many games and contraptions, and read lots of books.
I had a series of bad experiences with various teachers at different ages and my father was brave enough to confront them each time. Thanks to my Dad, who was ahead of his time in many ways and believed that these teachers were up to no good if they had to resort to caning the student each time he failed to do his homework, I had a balanced childhood. I didn’t have to put up with idiotic teachers for long. Either they were booted out or I changed schools.
It was given that teachers would act like masters while students would grovel like slaves. Teachers berated the kids, humiliated them, mauled them up, beat them to pulp, insulted them in front of everyone, and sometimes stripped them to make a point. Fortunately for me, our family resorted to protest, beat up the teachers in return when necessary, and changed schools. I did not have to succumb to the pressures of the society which said ‘it was all OK to endure the humiliation’.
When I was in my B.Tech, we had some teachers who demeaned the students at every opportunity they got. They talked about your caste, they mocked your dress, and felt obliged to speak about your personal habits and traits. Some of these professors insulted girl students, and threatened them with dire consequences just because they talked to boys. One teacher resorted to throwing your lab report out of the classroom. As the guilty party you had to walk in front of everyone to retrieve it. Sometimes, if he is in a good mood, he would throw it once again, till you feel you are hopelessly humiliated. The whole college looked like a feudal setup, where students behaved like slaves or bonded laborers while the teachers behaved like the kingpins and the landlords. The teachers felt they got a divine right to berate a student on any topic- it doesn’t have to do anything remotely associated with academics. The whole exercise was to make you feel very inferior, as if you are ball of shit, a worthless pile of dust.
When I went to USA for my MS, my advisor asked me what I liked and what I wanted to do. It was something that I was not used to. When I blurted out an answer that was a cliché, he asked me once again, ‘what do you truly like, provided there were no constraints, no expectations? What is it that you want to do?’ I confessed that I needed time to think about it. I went back to him a week later and told him what I wanted to do. Later on, I got used to asking myself, ‘what do I really want to do?’
Indian TV has many reality shows nowadays. Sometimes I get to watch them. The judges are not different from the kind of teachers I had while growing up. My rules on Indian Idiocy can be applied here. In India, age is same as knowledge, and knowledge is same as wisdom. Hence, all the judges are automatically more qualified, more talented, more knowledgeable and wiser than any participant. They take the opportunity to berate, humiliate if necessary, and insult the participants.
Sometimes the kids go home crying. The exercise has not changed. The idea is to make you feel bad about yourself, so that you lose the little confidence you have. You are supposed to go home with the tail between your legs.
Indian teachers continue to demoralize, demotivate, and extirpate all confidence from young Indians. India needs brave, bold and confident new generation youth and that is not possible unless we solve the root cause – and that is to with our education system, not the syllabus, but the way teachers treat their students.