Sunday, October 16, 2011


I'm a dad, and a stress-free one at that, blessed with a kid who doesn't create much fuss, sleeps peacefully ever since the day he was born, and travels without irritating people around him. The stress started as soon as I sent my kid to a play school. Oh - we just sent him there so that he can interact with kids. Basically, to get him out of our apartment and meet people of his age.

And one of these days when my wife went to pick him up, he was standing there in a corner along with another offender. They were not allowed to join the games and action that were going on. Apparently he got into a tiff with another kid. And their idea of punishing him was by depriving him of the only reason to go to playschool - play. All of 2 years and 10 months, it was his first brush with punishment. He came home and just lay down there on the bed for hours with his eyes fixed at the ceiling.

Anyway, my point is our education system. It's not the Hello Kids, Smart Kids, or Junior Kids that I'm talking about. It's about the biotech/microbiology courses that leaves students with no jobs. It's about the MBAs with amazing CGPA scores who have no clue except that they wear blazers, have a laptop given by the college, and have been on a free trip to Europe as part of the course. It's about the MAs in English who cannot write a sentence correctly. It's about the Engineers who would do anything other than engineering. As part of my job, I interview quite a good number of them and come out of it with the feeling, "they have no idea why they were studying something." Which is a familiar feeling of course, because I had no idea why, when I was doing my studies.

What is the purpose of education? Why should I study what I'm studying? It's high time we started asking such questions.  The broader answer to that would be to study or do what you really enjoy. Can we imagine Tendulkar as a statistician or Harsha Bhogle as a batsman? Satyajit Ray as an economist or Amartya Sen as a film director. The really successful people were able to practice what they liked. Or they fought against all odds to find a way to do it. Or they were plain lucky to be noticed early on. They are, in most instances, people who became what they are despite the system.

Once in school, we were given this assignment to write a complete story based on the outline given. I wrote it and gave it the title "Washed Out". The story is the familiar one about -Con artist____a puppy painted with spots and sold___when it rains later____the spots get washed away___con revealed. The teacher told me that the title "Washed Out" was inappropriate and that it should have been "The Painted Puppy" or "The Spotted Puppy" or something like that. I know the title I gave was sad, but I was shocked at the instruction from my teacher, that I remember that feedback about a quarter of a century later.

No wonder I liked Pink Floyd the first time I heard it!

The video below gives some answers. It's 20 minutes long, but if you're a concerned citizen, a frustrated student, an academic, or a parent just bothered about your kid, you may just watch all of it.  [Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?:]


  1. It looks like you did fine even with creativity-killing teachers! Trust your li'l boy will too. The environment at home probably has a lot to do with building creativity. And sometimes even an oppressive environment seems to bring out the best in people (not that that's desirable at all). Think Charlie Chaplin and Art Buchwald.

  2. Anonymous - Thanks for that comment. It gave me the energy to write some more crap. :-) As for my kid, I think it's his journey. As for general education, like Mao apparently said about the French revolution - It's too early to say. The winds are changing somewhere though.