The failure of the Indian education system creates chauvinistic and amoral citizens

The emergence of Bulli Bay app, and before that the Sulli Deals app, apparently created by young adults, points to something deeply rotten in the moral core of certain sections of our youth. The contemporary educational system seems completely ineffective in enabling people to eliminate prejudice, bigotry and lies.

What kind of learning and socializing makes people so caught up in hate-inducing ideologies, cruelty and a complete lack of empathy that to joke about rape and death threats be considered part of “just having fun”?

The creators of these apps, which essentially “auction” Muslim women online, are allegedly from privileged castes, deeply misogynistic and strongly opposed to caste-based reservations. They identify as “traditional” who firmly believe in ‘tradition’ and oppose all forms of modernity – with the exception, of course, of the internet and the mobile phone.

Many are strong supporters of a native-vedic-aryan supremacy and shamelessly worship the icons of the far-right Hindutva. Their beliefs make traditional Hindutva politicians appear to be moderates, and the “trads” actually call them “raitas” – a designation for people who “make a mess” of their commitments.

Social contexts, toxic discourses

What can explain the pull of these rabid worldviews? One is, of course, the context. We live in a time when those entering adulthood are likely to face unemployment, financial insecurity and precarious future; or authoritarian leaders incite followers to form vigilante mobs – digital and real – to destroy imaginary enemies; where toxic rhetoric against such enemies provides “explanations” for social ills and personal misery; and, when this toxic polarization of viewpoints lives inside homes.

An important reason for the pervasive hold of wacky and irrational “social logic” is the nature of the education we receive in schools, and often also in institutions of higher learning. A ritual system of education, whose sole purpose is to ensure that students achieve exam results and award degrees, commits many sins of omission.

Most engagements are designed to simply acquire and regurgitate memorized information such as definitions, laws, events, “solutions” to problems, and even descriptions of characters in literature. Consequently, much less attention – or, often, none at all – is paid to the deeper aspects that involve questioning, reflecting, analyzing, making connections and developing a healthy awareness. problems.

A global creation of a rote learning system is a worldview that has a poor understanding of social and political issues. It is marked by a fundamental inability to decode the socio-economic mechanisms of contemporary political economy, and by extension, its own personal difficulties. It is therefore not understood how caste discrimination operates in the real world or how merit is correlated with privilege. Instead, the mind is filled with simplistic notions that “reservations are against merit.”

It is misunderstood that unemployment is caused by factors such as the state of the economy and the increasing automation of industry, and not caused by the neighbor who belongs to another community. Pent-up social and personal resentments find scapegoats without thinking.

“The right to be offended”

Superficial educational exposure to basic ideas taught in civilized societies, such as “freedom of speech,” is internalized in the most literal way. Freedom of speech simply translates to “I can say what I want”, and now the internet and social media make this possible in a practical way.

This “freedom” regularly includes threats, often vicious. This perspective also argues that those with different opinions are liars and even unpatriotic betrayals – therefore, they mostly have no right to free speech.

This “freedom” also easily extends to the “right to be offended” by “anything I don’t like.” It could be a dress, food, delivered, a film, a speech, a blog, an article or even a researched writing. the heckler’s veto is frequently used when filing offense complaints.

When a conference is canceled or a book is banned, ostensibly because it may cause public order problems, the state not only abdicates its constitutional responsibility, but also provides validation for this grossly erroneous understanding of this “freedom”.

In this scheme, support for the lynching of an “enemy” or threatening raping a child is a “right”, but the peaceful protests of opponents must be crushed and calls for the genocide of “others” are justified, but all contestation is sedition.

This system of thought gives rise to strange equivalences: if one group preaches love and peace, then an opposing group has the right to preach hatred and violence. If we emphasize the absurdity of this equivalence, the latter qualify the former as intolerant. Apparently the concepts of hate speech are too sophisticated for this group to understand.

Instant Justice

Another significantly “simplified” notion is that justice must literally be served instantly. The principle of “innocent until proven guilty” – that everyone without exception has the right to a fair trial to prove their guilt – is treated simply as a bureaucratic obstruction.

In a thoughtless worldview, the operating principle is that “in my opinion, X is guilty, therefore X should be summarily punished”. This understanding that such a principle is necessary to protect innocent people from being ensnared and persecuted by the powerful, often the state itself is non-existent. The same goes for the realization that no one can be punished on the basis of an opinion, even more so in a world that is drowning in fake news. Thus comes the easy call of slogans like “goli maron salon ko” – shoot the traitors – and justification for mob violence.

Multidisciplinary learning

It is not for nothing that many modern democracies place such a high value on multidisciplinary learning and pedagogies that provoke reflection and analysis. Engagement with literature, music, the arts, and the humanities makes us aware of the stories of our culture and other cultures and sparks an appreciation for shared humanity.

The study of history tells us what material conditions led to wars, the establishment of nations and their systems of governance, and gives us insight into how socio-cultural beliefs arose.

Disciplines such as civics, law, and political science convey ideas of universal human rights, the functioning of representative democratic institutions, and notions of fair, reasonable, and just laws.

Exposure to disciplines related to science and technology teaches us the value of logical reasoning and proof. Such education allows for the development of the basic “toolkit” needed to distinguish between genuine and false accounts.

It is tragic that with the exception of a few reputable institutions, even when these disciplines are the main object of study, they are approached in the most superficial way. Moreover, interdisciplinary exposure in our current curricula is either non-existent or exists as a ritual formality.

For example, in most science and engineering institutions, studying the arts or social sciences is considered a “hobby”. Conversely, in social science institutions, the study of science, engineering, or medicine is considered mundane and intellectually unscholarly.

A few examples further illustrate the kind of understanding that results from the absence of a liberal, multidisciplinary education and the absence of healthy and profound perspectives.

A protest against the release of the Hindi film ‘Padmavat’ in Mumbai, in this photo from January 2018. Credit: Reuters

A superficial explanation of the rise of Nazism, on the eve of World War II, suggests that [Adolf] Hitler’s bad person was the main cause. Those who do not know that the Nazis were supported by significant sections of the German industrial and landed elite, and that the economic distress affecting the masses was exploited to blame the the Jews are ill-equipped to understand how contemporary authoritarian populist movements draw on similar factors.

An interwoven mix of economic and cultural knowledge is needed to understand history and politics.

Many people think that their own civilization was the “first” and therefore the “greatest” of all time. Such a perspective arises from a misunderstanding of the history of different civilizations and of the great intercontinental prehistoric migrations. Since most of the validation of flyways has been done by tracking the DNA of different human groups, lay scientific exposure to the main ideas of genetics is also necessary.

Without the context, nuance, and understanding of complexity that constitute background knowledge on an issue, reasoned viewpoints are simply replaced by varieties of chauvinism: “my culture and my version” is best because “I believe it”. Anything that disagrees is considered a conspiracy and it can be taken to absurd extremes; so the story you are looking for becomes a bunch of lies or validated scientific theories – such as the theory of evolution – are declared hoaxes in the midst of an intense surge of “cultural” superiority.

how it will get worse

In the days to come, it will get worse. Three specific factors are likely to play a role.

First, the continued emphasis on skills- or occupation-based courses in the curriculum as the exclusive route to employment will continue to devalue the idea of ​​multidisciplinary exposure, as it does not there is no point in pursuing “useless” subjects.

Second, the growing push for the digitization of education and the replacement of the physical classroom with the online virtual classroom will further eliminate in-person socialization with peers and teachers, and therefore the opportunity for learn more about people who are not like us.

Finally, the increased interest of technology companies – like Facebook, which recently rebranded itself as Meta – in creating virtual realities will create more addiction to the unreal and greater disconnection from reality on the ground.

In these “worlds”, issues such as socio-economic inequalities, the horrors of climate change, the degradation of work and pervasive financial precariousness will not exist and no reason to understand them will exist either.

will be the New education policywhich promises to instill a liberal and multidisciplinary pedagogy at all levels of education, delivers us to deeper modes of learning and reflection?

Anurag Mehra teaches engineering and policy at IIT Bombay. Its political objective is to explore the interface between technology, culture and politics.