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Teacher, Don't Preach

- Dr. Neelam Vasudeva
from Spandan 1999

I dedicate this article to Dr. Chandrama Anand, my preceptor and mentor, whose dynamic and mesmerizing personality, powerful academic acumen, unconditional compassion and above all `lo'ell du maitre' have moulded my thought and shaped my persona through the years of my personal evolution from a student to a teacher.

A Centipede has hundred legs; a simple observable fact of no further consequence, unless it starts wearing shoes.(A Chinese Proverb Sustained by the tranquil certainty of being)

Fairly proficient and adequately percipient in my chosen field of endeavour, it was disconcerting to discover that I had become a habituee of a different time zone, when requested to conjure up the past and morph it to the present context of `student -teacher relationship'. Walking up from a stupor of acquiescence stimulated a duality of impulse of ideas and ideals, and brought to mind the semi-shod centipede (still immersed in the ever-burgeoning task! ). Self was galvanized, mind was energized; it was time - for introspection!

Was the 'Guru shishya parampara' the savoir faire of traditional Indian pedagogy, an archaic concept? Was the current scenario completely at variance with the traditional edification of our forbears or did it feature a continuation of tradition intricately interwoven with state-of-the-art? Translating instinctive reaction into a reasoned riposte, a review of the existing status of teacher and taught against the present backdrop is reflective of the pace, pressures and magnitude of today's lifestyle. Further exploration reveals disquieting tidings that closely paralleled serious disjunctions and misunderstandings emerging in an intrinsically coercive system. I cannot in good conscience exempt my profession from criticism. Cumbersome, overt or covert, reprisal oriented edicts, proffered to be stoically tolerated or endured, breed universal resistance and justifiable resentment. Expecting obsequiousness from a timorous tenderfoot is at best questionable and at worst dangerous.

Cross-cultural psychology has overshadowed many culture specific and culturally appropriate concepts. Our `host' cultural characteristics are influenced by (ghost?) Western culture. A friendly thumbs-up sign from a student is the evolutionary heritage of the legendary Eklavya! Whilst pupils of yore were in a desperate frenzy to be reverential, the current lot is frugal to excess', something which was taken for granted is now to be earned!

Erudition pursued in intellectual isolation confines personal augmentation; per contra, it is desirable to maximize acquisition of knowledge by blending it with skepticism ( a freedom to think again) within the realms of a regulatory framework. Institutional dynamics that contribute to the evolution of an upright, erudite scholar should advocate a sound code of student teacher conduct.

Within the bounds of professional discretion, the teacher should confer advice, counsel, support and give direction to his pupil without infringing his personal space and enfeebling his emotions. An astute consultant can see through the facade of insouciance of his `in statu pupillari' ( an inbuilt defence mechanism of the more sensitive!) and reach out to him. Admittedly this generalization has exceptions, but those committed to the principle and purpose of wholesome education do occasion an upsurge of goodwill and pervasive optimism.

Without arrogating to ourselves the role of a `superhuman', we, the teachers should uphold the tenets of our professional ethics with pride. A keen sighted visionary assiduously assessing the protent of the times will not let grass grow under his feet. Let us be respected for our professional pride, accomplishments and above all moral courage; I know of no personal quality other than moral courage, that is more essential in the tight rope calisthenics of teaching. Amen.

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Copyright (c) 2004, Nikhil Goyal. All rights reserved.