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     Volume 8 Issue 74 | June 19, 2009 |

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One Off

Generation Stunted

Aly Zaker

I have a relative who teaches Bangla in an English medium school. There is an element of novelty in her teaching the subject. Instead of asking her students to parrot after her dictates, she tries to prod their imagination. I have seen her teach from close quarters and seen how she encourages her students, while writing an essay or composing an answer to a literary question, to relate it to their personal experiences. This is an exercise that we often use in theatre. The exponent of this was the Great Russian Actor, Director and Teacher Constantin Stanislavski who in his 'method school' of theatre had said that nothing in art is beyond our life's experience and I totally agree.

Reverting back to the teacher's experience who, by now, must have put in about twenty years in teaching was lamenting the other day that her method of, what she calls, 'creative teaching' seems to have been progressively on the wane. It has been more because of the changing mind-set of the parents than students themselves. They tell off this teacher on her manner of teaching by dictating her to teach in a way so that their wards may pass the tests leading up to the 'O' level examination. They say that they do not care so much about the literary side of the language for, after all, their kids were going to go away to the countries where Bangla wouldn't be necessary. This nouveau riche syndrome, I am afraid, seems to have permeated our known world like an all overwhelming flood and cuts across all divides of our urban societies. I think I have written this many times before and cannot but repeat that in our world today, value based education has become non-existent. The attitude is that having done with the process of education the kids will have to go grab the first opportunity to making money. This invasion of the nouveau riche disposition is catching up very fast. A society that has very little or no respect for time-tested values such blatant temperament has usually a field day.

Though I am not particularly interested in dwelling upon the 'new rich' and their expediency, much to my consternation, the pervading spread of their mindset is indeed affecting their children's outlook which, in turn, is influencing their peers. This is indeed worrying. The manifested attachment to worldly possessions today is transcending the boundaries of the cities and seeping into our villages. Across the spectrum of youth this attitude devoid of values and logic is making its presence felt. This is making the youth under the tutelage of their newly emerging mentors focus only on the material. Anything beyond that does not merit their attention. We will, therefore, be left soon with a number of zombie-like young herds of half made human beings who, I am afraid, wouldn't come to any use either here in their ancestral abode or in the distant shores that they are so keen to migrate to. I can clearly see that firstly, they are giving the wrong example to their posterity on the most important aspect of education and secondly, they are also helping to hasten the erosion of the values that have inspired us in all our great deeds in the past. What they do not seem to understand is that wherever their wards go, if they grow up as rootless algae they will only grow up as inferior human beings. The class that influences today's youth most is an archetype of half-literate, quasi-cultured, overtly ambitious pack that haunts the society with values that would make any thinking individual scream out loud.

At this point I am reminded of a joke that you all might have heard. A woman went looking for a birthday present for her husband in a big department store. She was offered a rare perfume, a pure silk tie, an expensive shirt, a rare brand of a suit. To each of these offers the woman had a standard answer of “Oh he has plenty of these, you know, he travels 'round the world very frequently and buys the best from the very best shops.” Flabbergasted, the shop attendant said, “would you rather take a book then? We have just received this book that won Booker prize this year. “Book?" the woman said, "well we also have 'a' book at home.”

Talking about books I was reminded the other day by my son that in the neighbourhood covering the areas of Gulshan, Baridhara and Banani there are only three bookshops of any mentionable standard. Amazing! An area that houses the rich and the mighty and perhaps the most literate Bangladeshis has only three bookshops! Coincidentally, we went to one of the most talked about bookshop in Gulshan the last Saturday. We saw that they had quite a variety of books and other reading material. There were also some new imports. But there were hardly any customers. It was eleven thirty on a Saturday and there was no one looking for books in, perhaps, the most popular bookshop in the neighbourhood. This was a tragic experience. Though I know that books can be read from the Internet these days, I dare say that very few would have taken the trouble to visit the book site and read a whole book on their computer screen. Therefore, organised efforts at stopping the process of de-intellectualisation has to start right away and in right earnest, to save our nation from socially expedient people by whose actions the growth of intelligent human beings are thwarted and our future generation becomes stunted.


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