“Why do you come to school?”
The reprieve of many a teacher when faced with a class that just won’t listen; questioning the purpose of the student’s daily commute, his walk up to the classroom, his bag weighing him down. But the question is not rhetorical, as I discovered the first time my class encountered this query; there is only one acceptable answer.
“To study,” the answer will invariably be.
First, educators may question a school system predicated upon the idea of merely studying, not learning or engaging in informative conversations. If those who designed the system reply with, “That’s not the main idea behind the school system,” then I say, but the children think it is. If the student doesn’t know why he’s in school, doesn’t know the correct reason why he’s in school, then who does? The teachers? Have we designed this system for the teachers?
Initially, when I didn’t much like school, with a different set of cultural norms (I never thought twice about dropping a book; I merely picked it up, upon which I faced hostility for failing to touch it to my forehead first), I asked why I couldn’t be homeschooled. “It’s for social normality,” my parents replied – though my present friends would agree that I’m nowhere near socially normal!
So I came to school for social normality, not that I could easily achieve that in the worst class in the year group. (When teachers said that to us, they weren’t joking. I always resented that characterisation. Yet, thinking that the teachers knew what they were doing, I never applied for a transfer.) My class, I’m ashamed to say, drove teachers to tears, and necessitated that a senior teacher be called in to get us in line. When attendance at the beginning of the day was 40, barely 25 showed up for certain classes. “Oh, they’ve gone for [sic] practice,” according to their friends who covered for them. What were they practicing? Sitting around the sports field? No teacher asked. On those rare occasions when attendance in individual classes was the same as attendance in the morning, the teachers had it even worse. I really don’t know how they managed. For example, it was not uncommon for people to shout out random phrases during the class based on the Hindi movies I never saw.
So, these people certainly did not go to school to study. Then, why? To mock teachers? To force people to say and do horrible things? (I remember one classmate, a vegetarian, who was chased around the room with a kebab, smelling strongly of meat, in his pursuer’s outstretched hand.) To release hormones? Or simply for fun?
Perhaps their parents forced them to go. If so, they either have no idea of the depraved monsters their children can become, or they cherish the few hours every week of peace they can snatch. News of parent-teacher meetings never seemed to reach these parent’s ears, somehow.
Academically, these people struggled accordingly; I recall that one of them, prior to a Maths examination, in the upper right-hand corner of his paper, wrote “Aal iz well” (from the only Hindi movie I had seen, 3 Idiots.) When his marks came back, next to the big red number (which I can tell you was at least 25% below the rest), the teacher had written, “Aal is not well. You need to study.”
“No bad language or derogatory remarks. No vandalism. No bringing cell phones to school.” Rules that are flouted on a daily basis. The student-teacher ratio is far too low, and teachers lead busy lives, so it’s impossible for all students to be kept in check all the time – which, you’ll agree, is a primary function of the school!
Our adolescents are growing up to act like children, and our grown-ups don’t seem to care. Do people today come to school because they enjoy defying authority? Is it mere teenage rebellion?
And if so, do you have any idea of the consequences?