Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Teacher Affects Eternity

Afshana talks about the profession of teaching before it became just another job

(Ms. Syeda Afshana, 34, was born in Srinagar. She attended the Vishwa Bharti High School in Rainawari, Srinagar, and the Government Women's College in Srinagar where she received a B.Sc. degree. She completed her Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 1999 and was the Gold Medallist (first position holder) in her graduating class. She is currently a Lecturer in the Media Education Research Centre (MERC) of the Kashmir University and pursuing her doctorate on the role of internet after 9/11.)

The Best Classroom

One hundred years from now,
it will not matter what kind of car I drove,
what kind of house I lived in,
how much money
I had in the bank,
nor what my clothes
looked like.
One hundred years
from now,
it will not matter
what kind of
school I attended,
what kind of
typewriter I used,
but the world may
be a little better,
I was important
in the life of a child.

For most of us, perhaps the best place of learning has been the classroom. The one where teachers dissected everything to brasstacks and made us imbibe unknown and invisible truths. The glory of classroom revolved around the teacher who shoved the whole class into new realms of knowledge and wisdom. The person whose insight unraveled the best lessons of life to his pupils. Henry Adams wrote, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” Incredibly true! However, the once decisive element in the classroom has now got reduced to irrelevance.

Times have changed. They say so. How much and whence—it’s an arduous question. The pace of life has accelerated, leaving out many things behind. Fastness has crept into every sphere. Fast results, fast bucks and fast success: the mantra of Fast Age has generally eroded the value-concepts and rendered them anachronistic.

One of the particular causes for relegating the role of a teacher to triviality is the introduction of new methods of teaching which are self-instructive and self-explanatory. The use of innovative technology like Internet and other electronic sources has also contributed in minimizing the importance of classroom. To some extent, the deluge of information available (a kind of Information Explosion ) has robbed the status of a teacher as a ‘knowledge bank’.

And then, the vast exposure to real life experiences brings the finest lessons home. Learners are more receptive to practical happenings than the pedagogic credo. It holds more water in present times than the good olden days when life was less restless and consequently, experiences were usually humanizing and not sharply penetrating.

In a way, it can be supposed that the best classroom today is the World. Maybe that’s why Cummings remarked that the ‘hardest battle is to be nobody but yourself in a world that is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else.’ In a world that conspires every moment to kill your individuality and tease you to hell, the serious lessons dawn gradually. The brutal cut-throat competition and the dogged survival of the fittest makes every minute a tutoring moment. The selfish associations and sham relations mature you to rationality. Harsh face of life and ugly side of affairs make the learning an “effortless” effort! Pupils go past their teacher in terms of practicalities of training. All that is bookish and quite “ideal” seems simmering down to matter-of-fact routine realities.

In a changed scenario, teacher can at best make his pupil aware that they are the actual agents of change, and have the capability to make a difference in the society that they live in. The times have come to go beyond ‘ preach/teach style’ of pedagogy. Inspiring self-distrust, a ‘true teacher has to even defend his pupils against his own personal influence…he will have no disciple.’ Of course, none is ready to be a ‘disciple’ and none around qualifies as ‘disciple-able.’ The best classroom, the World, has also brought the rawness of minds in bulk. The little knowledge and misplaced self-opinion has wreaked havoc with the learning spirit. Everybody is self-taught, goes the buzz!

Moreover, teachers too have lost the real zing. They are there just by the stroke of chance. Lack of dedication and solemn sense of commitment is a thing of yore, remotely belonging to them. They have badly treated the aura of teaching and the honour of being a teacher. Rare exceptions apart, a whole lot of present teachers hardly deserve to be called as teachers….

“The mediocre teacher tells.
The good teacher explains.
The superior teacher demonstrates.
The great teacher inspires.”
(William Arthur)

With no sound understanding of their job, they criminally play with the future of the nation: their pupil. More into getting fat salaries and other privileges, they don’t update themselves in tune with the changing trends of teaching methods.

The honesty of purpose is at the root of this malaise inflicting teachers. Perhaps they reflect the general malady of the society they belong to. They cannot be expected to work wonders, after all.

Given this repulsive dynamic, the World remains the best place to self-learn and self-explore the authenticity of life and its living. Signing off with the treasured words of Socrates…. “ I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.” Let teachers try out on it. At least.

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