Friday, February 10, 2012
Standardisation of Education Conference in CSSS, JNU
I finished my book on Ramana Maharshi in 2006, and it was published in 2010, with Roli. However Tiruvannamalai became an anchoring space for me, and for the last five years I have been visiting some schools and talking to the teachers. It occurred to me last year, after I had written up my notes for a paper which Prof Jayaram will be publishing in a book in honour of Prof Satish Saberwal, that I should try to get the teachers I had met in the course of five years of interactions and conversations to JNU. Nine teachers from the Network came to JNU, and two teachers from Lutheran Arcot Mission. We should have a volume on the proceedings out in summer of 2013. It was interesting to hear the way in which these teachers spoke of their success stories in terms of the love for farming that these children had, their familiarity with the soil, the possibility that many of them may not have survived in regular schools but contributed to society in many different ways, or that the teachers learnt from the students. Levi Strauss has an essay in the Savage Mind, which we use in class often, which is about how children who are tribals or peasant know the names of hundreds of plants while urban children may know the names of only three or four. The interesting thing about the conference was the framing locations in which the social scientists spoke about hierarchies of education, the question of explaining what one is to the state and the strategies of documentation which may keep one inside the state or outside. What are the margins, and how do theologies and isms work to keep one integrated or alienated. Very specifically what is the role of the judiciary in democracy, and how can we locate the ways in which quiet work involving decades of involvement allow people to choose how they live and how they are educated. The coercive aspect of education was of interest to activists and social scientists equally, and so the dialogue will continue tomorrow with the research students and some of the M.A students playing a more vivid role as interlocutors to the conference.