Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A revolution that we do not need

Through school and college, we read and savoured English and Hindi literature that was value-based, inspirational and edifying. I remember memorizing John Kennedy's famous "ask what you can do for the country ---" speech for the Elocution class, and the lovely Casabianca. I can recall snatches of the hymns and prayers we sang. I have not forgotten Bhartendu Harishchandra and Ramdhari Singh Dinkar. I loved the short stories of O Henry. I grappled with Rabindranath Tagore's poetry. My son is fighting a different battle!!!

We have "globalisation" and "liberalisation" and "Westernisation" at work now ------ and that's reflected in the choice of literature that is being offered for studies in some of our elite schools . It is literature that reflects a reality that one has to come to terms with, sooner or later, but which is neither so refined nor so elevating as one would wish it to be for the sake of its young and impressionable readers in school. This is a revolution in the school curriculum that we do not need.

I reproduce, in part, my son's appeal to the school :

The English Literature syllabus for the new term  is a collection of Katherine Mansfield's short stories and poems.Previously, we had studied Sophocles and Ibsen and Mansfield is the first 'modernist' writer we're studying.So far, we have read and discussed two of her short stories; Bliss and The Wind Blows, the first one telling the tell of a sexually confused woman who is attracted to both her husband and a female friend of hers, and the second one of a teenager who is infatuated with her piano teacher.

I feel these themes are discussed enough on TV shows and movies and should definitely not be a part of the Literature syllabus.English lessons have transformed into long debates about homo-sexuality and loose morals, both of which seem to have been glorified in the semi-autobiographical works of Mansfield. 

I really don't understand how anyone can gain from reading stories casually written by a degenerate who uses elaborate imagery and symbolism to pass off tales of lust and immorality as literature.

Mansfield represents the side of modernism that, in my opinion, is responsible for the decline of our value systems.

The main distinction between modernism and romanticism is the manner in which modernist artists and musicians and even writers tirelessly attempt to incorporate science and mathematics in their respective fields, and their love for determinacy and structure. The movement was triggered mainly by the atrocities of the two world wars and the realisation of the importance scientific progress.

Mansfield's kind, the later beatniks, are responsible for the degradation of all art forms, and of ethics in general. The anti-establishment attitude of this group has no place in textbooks, specially for adolescent students who are influenced all too easily by something they can relate to. 

It is my strong belief that everyone is entitled to their own opinions but a teacher's job is to expose students to positive influences, tales of pride and honor. 

I truly enjoyed Antigone and A Doll's House, but am finding it increasingly difficult to contribute in classroom discussions centered on lesbianism and lustful adolescent urges. The essay questions we are to prepare for ask us to elaborate on the protagonist's contradictory sexual desires.

It is my earnest request that you look into this issue and order a change of syllabus, if necessary.

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