This Independence Day, Let’s Encourage Children To Think Freely And Question The Norms

The ability to think rationally, form opinions and question the existing norms and traditions has to begin at a very tender age. Who better to help children with these than parents and teachers?  

The ability to think rationally, form opinions and question the existing norms and traditions has to begin at a very tender age. Who better to help children with these than parents and teachers?  

An all round education is difficult in a completely formal setup; as there we would probably teach children how to sit in rows, how to keep quiet, how to behave in an orderly fashion. All this would deny children their right to question, an ability to raise his/her voice – to express, to explore their interests, strengths to break the norms.

Every human being is born with a spark. It is our responsibility to see that it is kept alive and nurtured with care. It should not be put out from the burden of the system, its rules and norms.

Many children are taught and guided through a path which adults are comfortable with, like the customs, traditions, dos and don’ts. This won’t help them in any way to become responsible or rational beings. If questions are suppressed, systems are not challenged, dialogues are discouraged then children would forever be depended on what is handed down to them on a platter. Those would be their gospel truths and they might fail completely to tap on their own potential.

By guiding and nudging children towards the much taken and beaten down paths, we adults showcase two things – One, our own limitations, lack of confidence and two, our fear of knowing the unknown. This might be because most of us are the products of this closed and rigid system.

I remember an incident from my childhood. I studied in a non-formal, alternative school before joining the main stream. My adjustment with the switch was okayish mainly because of an excellent class teacher I had then, who understood me very well. I had the confidence and attitude that I knew, would make me feel okay eventually. Before the year ended I was adjusted, had made friends and started showing interests in things I liked.

One day, there was some construction work going on in the school, during which a labourer’s kid entered our class corridor. I was in grade 5 at that time. I bent down, touched his cheeks and walked away. A friend of mine looked horrified, came rushing to me and asked me to wash my hands because the kid was ‘not one of our own’. Of course, I was too young back then to figure out what exactly was wrong with her words. But deep down I knew something was wrong with her statement and more so, with the sentiment behind it.

Many children who had this notion of ‘us’ and ‘them’ are grown up adults now and still believe in this divide. So, should we blame people or the system? That again is a complex issue as systems are made by the people and hence to some extent they are people’s reflection.

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Another aspect that every adult and child should have is an opinion of their own about everything. The world right now is either luxurious for few or a challenge to many others. Things are either easily available or not available at all. For those who have got the access to resources, it becomes a responsibility to utilise them for gaining knowledge. Not in the click bait manner which a lot of us are getting used to. But, an in-depth one.

Being aware is the least we can do to show our respect to the life we have got and the senses that we have as a precious gift. We need to honour them.

I have the opportunity to interact with kids of different ages. It’s a delight to take one period each week in every class on different issues. The questions like what is below the ground? What are volcanos made of? What is Pangaea land? What is the meaning of the term Hindustan? Was it coined after a religion or does it signify something else? What are stars? What are planets and galaxies? Who works more mom or dad? Are men and women equal? etc are discussed and thought about.

Also, I get a lot of stereotypical text in the course books, I need to every now and then close the books and remind children to learn differentiating the writer’s views from their own. Because it is important for them to realise that views can be formed and they might differ from the popular ones.

We need to do this with our kids and the ones we regularly interact with. We need to nurture the unbiased and loving nature that children have and work hard to stop it from being poisoned by the adults.

Kids see, they understand, learn and enact what they see. The way I hold my pen and my handwriting is a carbon copy of how at least 3 members in my family writes. Because subconsciously I picked up the style. This is just an example and I am sure each one of us have few traits that are ditto of someone we are closely associated with.

Those who can, must work to change the world. One positively effected person can go a long way. We need rational beings, not fanatics and bigots. The world we are leaving behind for our children is not ideal and probably worse than what was handed over to us by our parents.

Efforts being small or big is not a parameter when we speak about touching people’s lives. Each one of us needs to do whatever we can. That doesn’t mean we impose ideas and principles because freedom and rational thinking can never be imposed.

All we need to do is constantly remind kids to be informed and rational. That is, if we truly love and respect them. Otherwise, its easy to slap them while they are young and tell them that asking questions is bad, the traditions and norms are the gospel truths from the god’s own mouth. So that the child can question neither the traditions nor the norms, god or the gospel.

We all have wings. It’s time we learned how to fly and soar high with our thoughts.

It’s time we make our choice.

Image via Pixabay

First published at author’s blog

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