Friday, July 25, 2008

The Animal school

Once upon a time the animals decided they must do something heroic to meet the problems of a "new world," so they organized a school.

They adopted an activity curriculum consisting of running, climbing, swimming, and flying. To make it easier to administer the curriculum, ALL the animals took ALL subjects.

The duck was excellent in swimming -- in fact, better than his instructor; but he made only passing grades in flying and was very poor in running. Since he was slow in running, he had to stay after school and also drop swimming in order to practice running. This was kept up until his web feet were badly worn, so then he was only average in swimming. But average was acceptable in school, so nobody worried about that except the duck.

The rabbit started at the top of the class in running, but he had a nervous breakdown because of so much make-up work in swimming.

The squirrel was excellent in climbing until he developed frustration in the flying class, where his teacher made him start from the ground up instead of the treetop down. He also developed "Charlie horses" from over-exertion and then got a "C" in climbing and a "D" in running.

The eagle was a problem child and was disciplined severely. In the climbing class he beat all others to the top of the tree, but insisted on using his own way to get there.

At the end of the year an abnormal eel that could swim exceedingly well and also could run, climb, and fly a little had the highest average and was named valedictorian.

The prairie dogs stayed out of school and fought the tax levy because the administration would not add digging and burrowing to the curriculum. They apprenticed their child to a badger and later joined the ground hogs and the gophers in order to start a successful private school.

Every story has a moral, this one has one too. I would not say its for kids but for their parents and elders who need a moral story once in a while.

It sometimes amazes me how confused our children are. They can calculate square roots but need time management skills to write exams. They can solve toughest logic problem but need counselling when they need to decide on career or relationship.

But we have taught them to apply their brains and. not minds , so what if rabbits cant fly or get horses a "C" in the stories it makes us laugh but we cant see our kids carrying loads like donkeys and pleading for help.

"An application to God"

" I want a multitasked fully automated son/ daughter " who can study/dance/sing/play tennis/crack JEE/GRE/ all the E's left.

In return i am willing to get Boost/ chocloates/ MC D's/N- 70 and all acronyms possible. After all its give an take.

"We have carried loads like donkeys to reach you here son," a father.

"So i got to be one too to keep up the tradition ", asked the son puzzled ( pun intended)

Question: Are we worried about our progeny or ourselves when we force them to do what we think suits them?

Are we blind in love to turn deaf to their pleas and mentally retarded to understand what are kids can do best for themselves?

Maybe we are !!!!! and we are responsible for creating a class of dissatisfied individuals who hate their work and have long forgotten what interested them.And who jump from one job to other to cover up their helplessness. who blurt the same old classical statements, copied from texts and even cant differentiate between their thoughts and quotes.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon -- do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.

Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1911)

Monday, July 21, 2008

I can write the saddest lines - Pablo Neruda

I can write the saddest lines tonight
Write for example: ‘The night is fractured
and they shiver, blue, those stars, in the distance’

The night wind turns in the sky and sings.
I can write the saddest lines tonight.
I loved her, sometimes she loved me too.

On nights like these I held her in my arms.
I kissed her greatly under the infinite sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could I not have loved her huge, still eyes.

I can write the saddest lines tonight.
To think I don’t have her, to feel I have lost her.

Hear the vast night, vaster without her.
Lines fall on the soul like dew on the grass.

What does it matter that I couldn’t keep her.
The night is fractured and she is not with me.

That is all. Someone sings far off. Far off,my soul is not content to have lost her.

As though to reach her, my sight looks for her.
My heart looks for her: she is not with me.

The same night whitens, in the same branches.
We, from that time, we are not the same.

I don’t love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the breeze to reach her.

Another’s kisses on her, like my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body, infinite eyes.

I don’t love her, that’s certain, but perhaps I love her.
Love is brief: forgetting lasts so long.

Since, on these nights, I held her in my arms,
my soul is not content to have lost her.

Though this is the last pain she will make me suffer,
and these are the last lines I will write for her.

Friday, July 18, 2008


"If sharks were people," his landlady's little daughter asked Mr. K, "would they be nicer to the little fish?" "Of course," he said, "if sharks were people, they would have strong boxes built in the sea for little fish. There they would put in all sorts of food plants and little animals, too. They would see to it that the boxes always had fresh water, and they would take absolutely every sort of sanitary measure. When, for example, a little fish would injure his fin, it would be immediately bandaged so that he would not die on the sharks before his time had come. In order that the little fish would never be sad, there would be big water parties from time to time; for happy fish taste better than sad ones.
Of course, there would be schools in the big boxes as well. There the little fish would learn how to swim into the mouths of the sharks. They would need, for example, geography so that they could find the sharks, lazing around somewhere. The main subject would naturally be the moral education of the little fish. They would be taught that the grandest, most beautiful thing is for a little fish to offer himself happily, and that they must all believe in the sharks, above all when they say that they will provide for a beautiful future. One would let the little fish know that this future is only assured when they learn obedience....
If sharks were people, there would of course be arts as well. There would he beautiful pictures of sharks' teeth, all in magnificent colours, of their mouths and throats as pure playgrounds where one can tumble and play. The theatres on the bottom of the sea would offer plays showing heroic little fish swimming enthusiastically down the throats of the sharks.... There would certainly be religion. It would teach that true life begins in the sharks' bellies... In short, there could only be culture in the sea if sharks were people."
From 'Kalendergeschichten' by Bertolt Brecht.

Hope you could read between the lines :)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Race.. Race – Yes Yes ---- Morning walks… No- No

Today I had a discussion with E. She works testing. She said jokingly is there a story by anyone on the angst of a researcher working on examinations. G directed her to me, saying Teena might have an answer, education expert here. I really did not have one, but then I asked “Why exams”? or rather why competition? I knew what lay ahead but being pounced at times gives you many insights when you try analysing and responding to what others say.
She began by saying we have lakhs of students and your alternative ideas sound good but it’s impractical in India.
So exams was to weed out the best , but it was not concerned with individual’s abilities but with the fact that how much you can reproduce at a given time.
How many times we forgot answers and recalled an hour later. So it’s not my knowledge but my skills to reproduce in a short time that’s valued. And for this great task I am gifted a certificate. I am labelled meritorious.
She asked me would I prefer being treated by a doctor who has flunked exam four times or by a doctor who is from a reputed institution? Something R asked me once when I was talking about Dewey and progressive education. Well in the first place does flunking mean incapable or incompetent? My mom was operated by a surgeon from London in fact all the three women who had hysterectomy on the same day had peritonitis and required a re-surgery. And believe me this doctor never flunked or so his reputation says. But if by exams and grading and categorising, we mean one person is superior to other, I find it hard to digest.
We all aspire to send our children to the best schools, and that means a school where our kids pass with flying colours, clear entrances and get the best jobs. We aren’t bothered to see them march like victims with heavy loads, early morning in starched uniform s, we are least bothered if they kneel down in front of classrooms with a hammer in outstretched arms, of course discipline helps or how will they learn to obey their lords later in life.
Scoring below 90’s is unbearable though we know everyone wont be No.1 we believe our kid has to be no matter what he does to push the other one down.
Does it mean we can’t visualise a system where our teachers can avoid exams, avoid competitions and assess students using different strategies and only bring in exams in 10th and 12th. Does writing exams require constant practice for competing and inculcating the fear factor? I understand I am talking of implementing it in government schools with 50-60 students in a class, where teachers are ill equipped with resources, competence, ideas and the students come from different backgrounds.
What I am trying to understand is why did we need exams? Definitely to select some people for a particular task, thereby we labelled the others as useless (maybe they are used less). My college in Kerala ran a kindergarten where there were 50 seats and 250 applicants on average a year. These 3 year olds had interviews and written exam, I have seen kids dozing waiting in queue for interview. Poor child if he misses an answer being drowsy and misses the seat he/she will be stamped unlucky from the beginning of his educational life. I have seen parents breaking down when their child was not admitted doubting if their child is unintelligent.
The sense of being a misfit, a loser and the association of prestige to marks is so pathetic that the word exam is a phobia to many. To ease the phobia we talk of different way of improving exams measuring their application or content rather memory. But it’s like old wine in new bottle. The need for assessing a larger mass within a limited period has left examinations the last resort, but does it have to be terrorising, high stakes and life threatening.
A documentary by an organisation named SIDH (society for integrated development of the Himalayas) beautifully quotes a villager on the occasion of paddy pounding festival “ Remind your teachers to apply right pressure on the children to remove their negativities and not to crush their souls” and that’s how paddy pounding is similar to education to her. Because if the right pressure is not applied grains break like the soul of our children.
An article on high stakes was titled “High stakes are for tomatoes”, definitely you need stakes to hold tomato plants but not to pressurise human souls.
Do we really need Aamir Khan Productions to bring out TZP kind of movies to realise the angst of comparisons, competitions and pain of tormented souls?????
Today somewhere there will be a sitting, a conference a PTA meeting on improvising examinations system how to train our children to be efficient labourers for future industries, How to camouflage exams and give it to the kids sugar coated and may their eyes glue to books and classes .And lakhs will be spend on transferring old wine to new bottle.
The motto is-
“ Duniya ka nara Jame raho”

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My memories of school days

After reading " How children Fail- by John Holt , my memories travelled to my school days . Just sharing a few thoughts.

It’s amazing how schools can kill the spirit of learning. Every child born as an inquisitive, vibrant learner is often forced to fit into a mould and conform to a unified set pattern. The degree of freedom to be given to a child has always been a concern of the traditionalists and progressivists. But on one side we expect a child to behave and grow up like an adult who to a child is the role model. And on the other side we withdraw him the opportunities to learn to be like an adult. The myth that anything a child comes into contact with will be destroyed has induced a fear in parents to the extent that any attempt on the part of the child to learn and understand the world is refused. Children are often considered to be immature, who talk gibberish, roam in their imaginary world of games and story telling. But the amount of learning that happens in these processes is often underestimated or unnoticed.

It’s wonderful to see children inventing their own language, own games and songs, they possess the ability to construct their own world. And some times the dexterity, clarity of thoughts they possess, is absent even in adults. But entering schools things change. The child realises a slip between the cup and the lip.

Having grown up in the Gulf and studied in an Indian school, there has been many experiences that helped me and many things I believed I could not learn. Often the list of things I could not learn piled my list. I won’t blame my school for not providing me opportunities to what I missed as much as I would my parents. I often regretted not learning musical instruments, sports and participating in cultural activities. There was always a craving to do creative things , think out of the box style .As a student I had learned the magic trick of mugging up things that never mattered to me and I was sure was useless for a life time . I have always put in more time for subjects that fascinated me. Of all my teachers I loved the English teachers who gave us creative assignments. We were pretending to be journalists a day reporting about a man being swallowed by a python and acting a play written by us the next term . Every subject had an exhibition, be it measuring sand in a cone and cylinder proving the connection between areas or making pulley that carries water using dynamo for physics experiments, Year long exhibitions was more fun than classrooms. There were clubs for everything from quiz to music .The kind of patriotic song we were taught with the kind of fervour especially being in the same schools with a Pakistani school run by the same management. The rage the history classes and patriotic movies induced in us to top with the inter school cricket matches; we were prone to turn to Kargil any moment. But yet there were some amongst us who knew they came to school for serious business mostly kids of teachers and their close associates. Their schedule divided between classrooms and tuition centres. Anything non-academic in the sense which gave less exposure, chances of not receiving medals and certificates was never opted by these demigods.

I remember we were made to write a letter for a competition on children’s day. I was serious about it and wrote pages on what I thought about India when these “Demigods” blessed me and submitted their half pages. They had realised as well as the teachers that these stuff were activities for name sake to instil in our minds pride and patriotism.

I never drew anything till my 9th std. Infact I hated painting, but its when I started doing art work in 9th I realised why it was so. Till then any teacher would come in drawing period and ask us to draw some pictures they displayed some times objects, some times sceneries. Art period was considered a rest period and no one knew anything about art or painting. In fact even in history when we learned about Renaissance portions on art and architecture were ignored. But this teacher changed everything, she asked us to design toothpaste boxes of our own, design advertisement posters, saree designs, she taught us art was more than sketching we did collage and those pictures are still vivid in my mind, Art exhibitions were started and we used to submit mosaic works, rangoli designs.
Any interest to paint and learn craft work came from those opportunities and appreciation my teacher gave me and one message she gave us , "if you have determination and confidence you can learn anything". Infact most of the stuff I did thereafter was never learned from a course or class but things I observed and learned on my own.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My take on education

Dear teachers,
I am the survivor of a concentration camp.
My eyes saw what no man should witness—
gas chambers built by learned engineers,
children poisoned by educated physicians
, infants killed by trained nurses,
women and babies shot and burned by high school and college students.
So I am suspicious of education.
My request is: help your students become humane.
Your efforts must never produce learned monsters,
skilled psychopaths,
educated Eichmanns.
Reading, writing, arithmetic are important
only if they serve to make our children more humane.

What are we pacing for a paper called degree which gets us tonnes of paper and metal called money
Can we atleast for a second think of money in those terms. You would think i got loads of it so i feel so.
No i got enough to survive , obviously i never thought of posessing a house , a car, latest mobile, laptop or any other ammenity.
When we say quality of life isnt these the objects that pop out of our brains . And life is equated to posessing these . There is never good in life it always a quest for better and best and beleive me...

" life becomes a bottomless pit and education a conspiracy to help you reach there"
“An obsession with failures stems from the compulsion for success”
We fear failures to the extent we are obsessed by it. because we are in for a a race and not a morning walk as a popular movie quoted.
When i once told a guy there is no concept called home , because we keep floating , he looked at me as if i betrayed him . I smiled , because my rudder lost direction some time ago.

As the survivor of nazi camp says if this is the so called glorious professions minting at the cost of inhumane activities, we call careers i am skeptical about our education and at the rosy enterprise called "LIFE"

The poem above is by a survivor from Nazi cocnentration camp.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bread winner sex

Wow a blog after a year, on the same date. So it was destined that i would write few lines tonight.

How about this..... i met this guy... not actually met him.... talked to him... no not talked in real in chat. This fellow works for some Newspaper ( actually i know the newspaper's name but cant reveal it) . He landed on my scrapbook thanks to my friend Irshu, whom he knows from Mananthavady and my friend's sister Suraya i guess he know from PG. His initial intro was, Hi, do i know you?? A regular statement these days. No, i said. Well we got two common friends, he scrapped and then asked something that irked me. " You do research , how boring. isnt it pasting somebody else's ideas".

Now he stepped the danger zone. I started aiming my rifle , ritualistically and started very politely " I never knew newspapers wrote innovative stuff " ?? apart from digging graves .Strike # 1 i was leading.

Well i work in marketing so i dont write , but i am a creative guy strike # 1 he was pacing.You seem to be a different person my gut instinct says so

oh no!! strike # 3-4-5-6 he leaped ahead.

Well thats no news to me i hear it quite often. I am one of the kind , god does not manufacture my kind anymore. If he expected a humble answer i was not going to conform . strike # 3-4

Well What do you research on? , a typical question anyone would ask . Dont they know the researcher has no clue till end ? "Alternative education", i said . "Oh ! isnt it something related to changing the system of education radically strike #7-8-9-10 , he knew some stuff.

" well did you google it now" ?, i asked . "Well, in the media industry got to know stuff". if he said newspaper or media again i swore i would puke.

"Yes, it is something related to what you said", i replied .
"well... you see, its we who brought it in SFI we took strikes to improvise the system...."

what ?#$%%^ 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 - reduced all the points." what the hell do you mean your party found it. Alternative education is no patent of SFI, it has been since the system of education was found. even before 1800's u got me ? Gr8 G.K you got Mr newspaper!!!!!!

"Hey, thanks Teena , I didnt know about it you really updated". (oh god , he is acting cute) strike# 1,2, 3, 4 , 5.
Well actually research is good for you girls, we guys cant do it you see . We belong to the ' 'BREAD WINNER SEX '.


"Well which century are you in? i dont believe u could use such derogatory , outdated terms like bread winner sex. By using hyped words and working for a newspaper you cant deceive you inner self . I dont beleive that god still manufactures models like you" . i will run a strike to protest manufacturing such models. And if i remember your SFI was not anti women group what with the chuavinism ? are ,men doing research feminine ? , what were you doing in your SFI selling peanuts????

No men who do research might be sons of feudal lords , he said nonchalantly.
And that was it ....
"Dont you dare meet me , because i would love to give a piece of my mind to the bread winner sex representative"

and that was final strike #1..2...2.5..45...65..75......100 !!!!!!!!!!

hey i am no feminist:)