Politics And Education




Politics has infected every aspect of our life. Education is not an exception. It is rather the most fertile ground for farming ideologies. Students easily fall prey to rabble rousers and form different organizations or unions. But the question is, "Do we need students’ unions or ‘students’ unity’?" Moreover, do they get right education? Or do we impart right education or in a right way? In the following lines, I explore the ways educators have so far chained the young minds, and how they can be liberated. These reflections were developed during my study of some books and articles on critical pedagogy in the US (Fall 2009) on politics of education.

I carried over my discourse from Gee’s explosive exposition on the established educators’ legacies which seem, as Swift’s irony was once said, to have "gone astray." I need to question and would ask my learners to do so, rather question even the greatest masters of the field for under the garb of learning might lie trash and "blah blah." Didn’t Aristotle once befool us by saying that women have fewer teeth than men without ever counting his two wives’ denture?

Literacy in my land (Nepal) suffers all the more because political manifestoes override everyday concerns. So does English education. I find my students at Master’s level struggling with volumes of reading and boggled by a series of lectures (five every day). At K-15 or K-16 (MA depending on 3-year or 4-year Bachelor’s programme) also the students carry a load of reading materials. Dialogue and debate is rare. Writing rarer! During the terms and finals, nevertheless, they reproduce pages of materials extracted from their memory.

I also find people and pupils split over mother tongue (for primary education at least), and British and American education at secondary and higher levels. Besides, they face dilemma regarding language and literature, a subject or many subjects (interdisciplinarity), and self-reading and interpretation or guided teaching.

When I put students to reading in the class or seminars, and invite their interpretations, very few admire the method because they have been spoon-fed with the fellow pedants. Participation, inclusion, informed criticism, questioning are all shelved because education is a means to gain grades by all means. Educators and learner-leaders (even student union leaders) do not question the literacy authorities as do the author-critics mentioned in this write-up. Instead, they question state and university authorities for transitory political benefits. The latter authorities behave like two different entities as university is autonomous but highly dependent on state funding.

I am myself a product of such a literacy programme. And I have come here to be able to translate (if ever) some of my own and my learners’ thoughts. I am aware of my role as literator, English educator, curriculum designer, textbook writer, researcher, reader, writer, and above all, perennial learner. I have never attended a commencement (also remember Rushdie’s commencement speech and recent row over Obama’s) for certain reasons but I hope with Judith Butler to be able to "question what is taken for granted" (quoted. H. Giroux, "Translating the Future," 2005, 213-18). Like an armed academician, I wish with J. Alsup et al. ("The State of English Education," 2006, 278-94) also to be able to make my learners read between lines with critical comprehension and develop some writoric, to contribute their imprints.

I am against "sugary schooling" that leaves layers of tartar on mind’s teeth and fattens people with knowledge and information for job in a far-off land or corporate houses, mushrooming media and malls, but fails to produce bona fide pedagogues, educators, readers, and writers, and, above all, questioners. I also decry "anemic education" that leaves you with sheer skeleton of degrees starving like kwashiorkor-hit children of Africa. Rather, I look forward to the days of NCLB (No Citizen Left Behind) when every citizen will be carrying a bagful of queries and comprehension, understanding and responsibility for democracy and social justice through "countersocialization" (William B. Stanley, "Critical Pedagogy: Democratic Realism, Neoliberalism, Conservatism, and a Tragic Sense of Education," 2007, 371-389). The task is Himalayan but take a step. Who knows it will leap you towards another inaccessible and exotic planet?

In sum, let’s pledge this poetic rap:

Let’s walk the road / of hope / to de-oppress / the slope / of education / of comprehension / of an answer to a question

Let’s wake awake / for the knowledge ungained / for the meaning unexplained / for the humanity unchained / to suppress anger, suppress evil of / banking filth of wealth of ambiguity, docility, inhumanity

Let’s re-humanize / and de-ize any negative / any oppressive thought / no violence by word or sword / no hegemony (hazy mony) by landless or lord

Let social justice rule conscientizacao / and neoliberals mule Inferno / sister literacy and aunt English / discard thy necrophilic behavior / live in harmony / feed kids with love pure

Let’s say "No" narcissist teacher / no fascist preacher / no lies from Pentagon / no flies from Abu Ghraib / infect us with / the lust of a power monger / solo free education, free educator, free educates

Let Socrates be born again / let ignorance be shorn of its vain / read and write / question and cite / give the forbidden apple a daring bite / see, smell and be the individual / you are within / swa(ll)ow epistemology / chew praxis / relish no aggression, nor regression / play Nora but slam not doors / walk softly and win and endure.

(Source: The rising Nepal)