How education can fight prejudice

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The conviction and conviction of a police officer for the murder of George Floyd signifies a major success for the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States. However, the question of why racism persists in America, despite a prolonged and serious effort made in the education system to address the problem, remains. The usual response among people who work in education is that education has never had a real chance to be successful. Their argument is based on the premise that for education to be successful in its social goals, there must be consensus among political, economic and cultural policies. It might be asking for the moon, but there is some truth in the claim that education cannot work in isolation. If discrimination against a certain group is rife in the economic and political spheres, the school alone cannot remedy it. So far, the case is well done, but further examination is needed to appreciate the kind of effort that those involved in education are making to alleviate stigma and also to recognize the limits within which they operate.

Someone without any prejudice must truly be a remarkable person. Does such a person represent an ideal educated society? This question promises to take us to the deeper meanings of prejudices and other mental states that are similar, but are actually quite different. Being a partisan is one of those candidates. At first glance, it seems as bad to be partisan as it is to have prejudices. Both terms suggest that they hinder impartial treatment and hinder justice. However, being a partisan is also being attached to a cause, while keeping the awareness that there are people who oppose that cause. The highly respected American journal, The Partisan Review, symbolized this approach. In India, Ashok Vajpayee, a former administrator and great poet, started a magazine called Poorvagraha. It was a bold title to choose as many believed it reflected the publisher’s prejudiced view of certain camps in Hindi literature. For Vajpayee, however, the title indicated his commitment to a broader definition of literature and its role in society. This type of partisanship has found its appreciation in many spheres of public action, including diplomacy, economic policy and education. Basically it means taking a stand rather than taking a bias against something.

In recent times, racial and religious prejudices have dominated public attention in different countries. My main point is that the term “racism” is far too general to accommodate different types of prejudice, and even the term prejudice or prejudice does not fit the different types of aversion people may have towards certain others. groups or causes. Some Western countries, believed to have overcome attempts to settle historical grievances in dramatic fashion, have recently witnessed tumultuous statues overturning. From Bristol to Charlottesville to Toronto, statues of historically significant individuals have been vandalized to varying degrees to express violent revenge. The sudden discovery that these statues marked official recognition of racist people by our current standards is apparently responsible for these attacks on stone and metal. The satisfaction obtained from such acts is undoubtedly greater than that which could be obtained from corrective comments on plaques or in manuals. However, this kind of satisfaction has diminishing returns. This is also true when it comes to changing the names of old towns, towns and train stations. The day that is accomplished, it seems like a decisive governance feat, but then the thirst for change shifts to other things.

Like race, religion remains a major axis of prejudice in all parts of the world. Attitudes towards religious groups other than his own often reflect deep prejudices internalized in childhood. The process by which this absorption of a dominant prejudice occurs in society is not amenable to analysis, in part because it occurs in extremely subtle interactions between adults and the child within. family space. In fact, when such processes are reported during teacher training, students find it hard to believe that such a thing is possible. The attempt demonstrates the popular hope that teachers can counter the prejudices prevalent among young people. Considerable effort has been made to turn this hope into reality, and everyone agrees that some success has been achieved, especially in the context of gender bias. However, negative attitudes based on religion and caste are quite different. These categories of prejudices are rooted in collective identities formed over long periods of history. These are transferred to each new generation by means of what can best be called perceptual history. It is a simplified version of the knowledge of the past that a community holds and transmits through religious activities and different cultural media.

Teachers generally do not recognize the social predispositions that children acquire from the religious and cultural life around them. It is these predispositions that turn into long-term prejudices, encouraging the stereotypes that teachers are urged to combat. Their task would have a better chance of success if they recognized and took a critical interest in the perceptual stories that children have internalized. It’s easier said than done. Any committed educational effort creates local undulations, which can become hostile in an environment loaded with polarities and sensitivities.

Schools need some appreciative understanding from society if they are to pursue child-centered learning, in which the learner not only acquires a willingness to regurgitate but rather gives a personal meaning to it. that is taught. There may not be a total consensus between the goals of education and those of political and other social institutions, but some freedom to function with an intellectual sense is needed to deal with entrenched prejudices.

This column first appeared in the print edition on July 13, 2021 under the title “Lessons against prejudice”. The writer is a former director of NCERT. His latest book is Smaller Citizens

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