What do you say Sir?

A scene from a popular Hindi movie shows a big crowd assembled before a building and looking upwards in the direction of a top floor where some action is presumably taking place. The protagonist arrives at the scene, and asks a bystander what is going on. The man answers simply, “I do not know. Everybody is looking in that direction, so I am also looking that way”.
The primary aim in formulating education policy and bringing about changes in the present education system is purported to help the people of the nation provide for themselves and their family, and live a life of dignity in a healthy way. If some intellectuals grow out of such educated class who provide valuable guidance and leadership to the thought process of the nation, then it is an added bonus. Nevertheless, the basic minimum output that education aims at is to bring out good citizens who are able to judge what is best for them and for the society, and thus participate in the democratic governance of the country. Print and electronic media provide the information and expert opinion on the current affairs at regional, national, and global level, thus aiding the individual in possessing a sound awareness of the events around himself, and assess their implications on his immediate surroundings.

But are these aims fulfilled? Much has been said about the flaws and limitations of education system of the country, and several suggestions have been proposed to improve or change it. However, in spite of these limitations, at least some output in terms of the aims mentioned previously could be expected. Are we able to see it? Is the society taking decisions based on an analysis of the information provided and an educated opinion, or is it just looking in a particular direction only because everybody is looking that way?

I am not alluding to any particular issue or event or person. But look around yourself and you may see it happening all the time. People vote for a particular leader or a political party because everybody says it is going to win, we go to watch blockbusters, we read bestsellers, and we go for hot tourist destinations. We assume that since everybody is going a particular way, there must be something worthwhile on that path. It is definitely not to say that that leader, political party, movie, book, or tourist spot does not deserve the fan following it commands. Also, this does not imply that the individual should always strive to take a position contrary to the majority opinion. Instead, simply that in several cases, a person’s support and admiration is not based on personal opinion and judgement.

“What should we order for you?”
“Whatever. Anything that you people prefer.”

Can you relate to this conversation at any restaurant? The way we lead our personal, professional and social lives is not very different. We tend to bypass decision-making.

There is a fear that if everybody starts thinking and speaking one’s mind out, there would be utter chaos, and very little, if any, fruitful progress would be made in any direction. But isn’t this what democracy is all about? Of course, a synthesis of all the possible opinions is seldom feasible. Several compromises need to be made, and mostly the majority has its way. Perhaps we cannot help it, and can only try our best to accommodate all points of views to the maximum degree possible. The streamline flow is an ideal situation where everybody has the same point of view — something that we see during wars and sports, for example. Otherwise, it remains only an ideal rarely witnessed, but one worth looking forward to. Still, even if we ever do manage to achieve it, we should take care that it is because each individual shares the common opinion, and not because everyone else seems to look in a particular direction.

Here we are talking about a very simple occurrence that takes place several times a day in our lives — something that lasts just a few seconds, and involves taking a very simple decision, provide our opinion, or solicits some action on our part. In simple terms, it requests us to stand up so that people can identify us out of the crowd, and provide our valuable individual contribution. Providing education is a big investment, and involves a lot of effort on part of the government and other societies involved in it, and also the employees working at different levels. Everyone needs to show that all that investment and effort was worth it, and each penny was well-spent. Society moves in a stream; however, every droplet counts.

photo credit: Observing protests near Victory Monument, Bangkok via photopin (license)

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