Writing about education

Editor,

There is much to admire in Deepa Majumdar’s article “What is Education? Overcoming the Noetic Factory!” that appeared in the Shillong Times on Aug 6, 2022. The call to mastery of text is spot on and I wonder if the author would include in this, also mastery of skills and the acquiring of values. She is also right in decrying the privileging of the individual over the collective. She says the curriculum must uplift the mind, rather than being harshly utilitarian. My own view is that a balance is needed, though this may be difficult to attain.
She calls for thoughtful, reflective and critical thinking. Yes, these are skills and habits that must be inculcated in universities. As she does, most of us would affirm that the lofty purpose of education is to build human minds and characters and that “we must use education to enable individual students to become ethical citizens, selfless leaders, and thoughtful servants of humanity.”
But some of the content and manner of writing was disturbing, even derailing. She overstates and undermines her own positions by lurching towards impractical and untenable positions. Her stiff and starchy language actually becomes an unwitting demonstration of ivory tower education, which is elitist and even discriminatory.
It would be safe to assume that for most newspaper readers in India, English is not their mother tongue. I had to look up the dictionary for three words in the article: noetic, salvific, and propaedeutic. I have fortified my vocabulary with these words, but wonder if I will ever use them. (Having had my postgraduate and doctoral education in the US, I am conscious that imported pitfalls may trip me up in India.)
Here is a phrase of semantic overkill. The trend of undue sensitivity to students is described as “over-liberal constant saccharine-sweet narcissistic sympathy”. The meaning is barely decipherable. Simple language can be persuasive, even eloquent. In one passage the word “prostituted” is used as a derogatory metaphor. This word is unwoke and gender-insensitive.
Sadly, the article seems contemptuous of students. She disparages the tendency of teachers to seek student views “as if (their opinions) were priceless knowledge”. She decries teacher evaluations by students, calling them “disrespectful” and “the final nail on the coffin of higher education”. She makes the claim that teachers “pander to spoilt youth for the sake of a good evaluation”. Surely such teachers are a small minority. These views are undemocratic, and recall the hierarchical kind of education in India, in which worshipping the guru with unquestioned devotion is an ancient, but now outdated, value.
Teachers must be sympathetic and mindful of our students. The majority of India’s students are from poor families, many are first generation university-goers. Very few will have had much intellectual discourse in their home environments, yet they may be eager learners. They also have the practical and admirable aim to provide for their families, so need skills to enter the job market.

Yours etc.,

Glenn C. Kharkongor,

Via email

PHE should not supply untreated water

Editor,

What is it like to be supplied with contaminated water in this 21st century? Yet disgracefully, it is the regular feature of many of the localities in the town. Residents having PHE water tap connections are often getting completely untreated water. The situation is worse during the “rainy season”. Water supplied through the pipes may not even be safe to be used for washing and bathing purposes. It is too muddy and murky.
The sad part is that muddy water cannot be purified even with the help of normal water filters. Of course, many households are without any filter facilities since they cannot afford to buy and install one. It is a harsh reality. Well, the Public Health Officers know much better than the common people about the importance of drinking clean water. So who is to blame for the murky water that runs through PHE pipelines? This goes totally against the plans and policies of the present government that has envisioned and launched the Jal Jeevan Mission – to provide “adequate and safe” drinking water to every citizen. I think a thorough inquiry should be initiated to find out the discrepancy.
I also wish to draw the urgent attention of DHS, FSSAI, offices of Deputy Commissioners and other concerned health departments to take necessary steps with utmost seriousness. No matter what other health facilities may be provided to the people, citizens will not be safe and healthy unless the regular drinking water supply is “safe.” So, now we should not hesitate to filter out what is causing the problem!

Yours etc.,

Salil Gewali,

Shillong

Need for new approach road to Shillong

Editor,

On October 14, 2019, I had written a letter to the editor, wherein I had expressed my apprehension regarding the Umiam dam and the bridge thereon. Now, I see my apprehension is changing to reality, which is a very scary prospect. However, I note with concern that the authorities are now trying to work out an alternate bridge, possibly downstream.
I wonder why we are flogging a dead horse, and still regurgitating on an old idea. The time has come to think out of the box, and come out with better options. My proposal is that a new road be developed circumbulating the Umiam Lake. The route of this road may be Umsaw – Umbir – Mawlyndep – Nongkyndong – Nongpathaw, ending at multiple locations like Mawlai Nongkwar and Lower Mawprem. Currently, there is already an existing kutcha road, which only needs to be further developed. This will ensure that we have a substitute entry into Shillong, which will decongest the entry into the city in normal times and serve as an alternate route in times of any calamity.
Moreover, if this road is extended further, it can even serve as a bye-pass to all vehicles which proceed to Sohra and beyond. I believe a so-called Western by-pass was surveyed earlier based on these premises. Also, in future this will enable Shillong city to expand across the Umshyrpi river to the western side, which is currently totally underdeveloped.
I certainly think that this should be the approach of having a new route to Shillong, and it should be implemented on a war footing.

Yours etc.,

Sarad Bawri,

Via email

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