Making the margins visible

Usha Raman

bhopal-agony High school social studies curricula are generally planned so as to prepare children to enter life in a democracy as responsible and participative adult citizens. It’s a different matter, of course, that we tend to forget this and treat them as just paper lessons to be memorized and reproduced! So from linear and descriptive accounts of wars and movements, people and places, and features of the Indian democratic system, textbooks move into more relevant (in a contemporary and direct sense) discussions of recent history, the mechanisms of participative democracy, and the conflicts and contradictions inherent in processes of development. Children begin to ask more searching questions, and discover that the answers are not always available or to their liking, and many answers actually make them uncomfortable. The classroom then becomes a space where they discover their place in society, and learn to negotiate their way through life, dealing with issues of power, hierarchy, rules and regulations, justice and denial. Of course, these are issues they have in some manner dealt with all through their childhood, but now they have a name and a whole discourse surrounding them that they begin to engage with.

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