There’s no disagreeing that education is at the centre of any programme of change. History has shown us that propaganda seeking to change mindsets and cultural meanings finds its way into textbooks and school curricula. Newly elected governments often disrupt academic calendars to refashion educational materials according to their worldview. The composition of classrooms and the organization of disciplines bear evidence of attempts at social engineering. And of course, that biggest of all projects, the building and rebuilding of social identities and relationships, continuously plays itself out in millions of secondary classrooms across the country.
We embarked on the cover theme for this issue in the belief that we can’t wait for laws to be changed and society to reform itself for our children to have a chance at a safer, more humane world. We do share the belief that our classrooms are crucibles of social change, and we can make a difference, in small but significant ways, in how children think about themselves and each other. Gender relations and equations, ideas about what’s “done” or not, what is the “way to be” or not, swim around in the space of our classrooms, sometimes overtly but more often not. As adults, we too are confused by these unspoken, often unrecognized dynamics that configure the way we (are often forced to) live our lives.
Recent events have thrown open an opportunity for us to think about some of these questions more deeply, and discuss them more openly and fully than we have ever had occasion to in such a public manner. As the articles related to this month’s cover story reiterate, we need to take advantage of this space that has opened for discussion.
We realize that not all of us are comfortable talking about such issues, and some of us may even recoil in distaste, considering it outside the purview of our academic calling. But there’s no denying that we’ve been faced with the horrifying truth of a kind of violence that can only be truly tackled with the tools of the mind.