Quite occasionally, I read the weekly column by Soumya Bhattacharya on his experiences being a parent to his daughter Oishi. I read his column on 14th March, Pre-Emptive action in Hindustan Times and wrote to him. Following are my observations :-)
Hello Mr Bhattacharya,
I read your column with lot of interest every week. Your column on 14th March, 2010 was very interesting. I have many things to share with you.
Firstly I am very critical of the mainstream education system. It saddens me to see writing given as a task. By making creative writing a task somehow obliterates the love for it. It is a sure shot way of kicking joy away. Don’t you think?
The pedagogic system and parent-child relationship have one common feature- the desire for approval. Let me explain. When the child is given a task, the task is given by someone who is in a superior power relation as compared to a child. It can be a parent or a teacher. The child is acutely aware of this lop-sided power relation. Therefore there comes a need for the child to please the person in power by fulfilling the task that has been given. You see, in this process the whole idea of the creative activity is lost. Creativity is just for one’s own self. I do understand that artists too need their audience. But should this need to please others be inscribed at such a young age? Should one inculcate the desire to find gratification in one’s own work through seeking approval from others at such a young age?
The hierarchy and the resultant unequal power equations in the education system (between the teacher and the child) and in the family (between the parent and the child) bother me. I think the power over the other manifests itself in this need for approval that we all seek and have sought at one stage or the other. I think children need to be left alone to do things that they want to do, that they wish to do. Besides, it is definitely not easy to state an opinion in a way that doesn’t come across as evaluation of the same. Only when this need for approval and evaluation goes away can the boundaries between the teacher and a child disappear (in terms of hierarchy) and can they both learn and discover things together. This applies to parent-child relationship too. Only then will a child realise that human beings are all fallible in nature. Only then as you mentioned in your last column, will the children not feel astonished when they find that their parent often doesn’t know everything. I think the disappointment of parents not being super human beings can vanish if parents and child learn an activity (that is new to both of them) together.
Besides I feel your daughter needs all the praise from your side. Small slips are always pardonable. The mistakes should never over shadow the creative work that the child has come up with. I do understand the anxiety of a parent regarding dispraise that the child can face. But then sadly that is the system we live in. I really don’t have an answer for that dilemma.
Shobha S V