Can we stem the rot?

The past month has been one of upheavals in the Indian political space. Scams of various kinds, issues of professional ethics in law, journalism, business and sports governance. And of course the odd story about student abuse or teacher intimidation showing that not all is rosy in the education sector either. Not that we imagined it to be. We take our cues about behaviour and social relationships from a variety of contexts, while growing up. We learn about what is acceptable and what is absolutely not by watching and occasionally testing the limits of the rules we are confronted with. Various contributors to Teacher Plus have spoken about the need for moral education, about creating a context where ethical and moral fibre can be spun and woven into the consciousness of children.

What is it about the contexts for learning that we provide (or do not provide) that make it possible for children to grow up into unfeeling, irresponsible individuals without a sense of social responsibility? What are the everyday lessons we teach (or do not teach) that stymie this development? When a teacher talks to a child without respect, it teaches the child that when one has power, respect is irrelevant. When a teacher accepts dishonesty without comment, the child learns that honesty is neither necessary nor expected. Reading the daily newspaper is like being given a lesson in hopelessness. If hope is to be found, it is on the faces and in the minds of children, the young people we interact with as teachers and mentors. Even to the most ramshackle of school buildings and the most dilapidated of classrooms, children come with hope and with expectations. We have to return that hope with trust, and meet those expectations with standards of our own. And maybe, then, over the years, we will see and feel a bit of a difference in society.

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