Friday, June 2, 2023

Political education

Today when we are just a click away from anything we wish to know, education and knowledge in it self have taken a different meaning. Things are thought for us and what is often presented as genuine knowledge is merely an act of disinformation. And politics is arguably the best case study in this, where we can find anything and everything by which we wish to strengthen our narrative, no matter how absurd it is. When we have people from all walks of life, from a huge spectrum of political thought expressing their political opinions, from the pulpit, through print media, electronic media, social medias, etc, it becomes quite a tough job to take what is factually correct and leave the rest. This is precisely where political education becomes an obligation. One may not have an opinion about neuroscience or might not be interested in nanotechnology, but politics is something where even not having an opinion is an opinion in itself. As Robert A Dahl has said, “When you are not making a decision, you are allowing someone else to make it on your behalf.” When we say we are apolitical, we are basically supporting the status quo, even without realizing it. Henceforth come the obligation of having political opinions and to express them, the quality of which flows from our political education, which makes us differentiate between fact and fiction. Coming from a part of the world where conspiracy theories sell like hot cakes, it makes imparting political awareness even more important. Where the political and social culture is one of authority more than reason, where power structures shape opinions and ‘knowledge’, wherein these structures of authority from patriarchy to the highest levels of state consider ‘manufacturing consent’ as their prime duty, deciphering reality becomes an art. We prefer to see things in binary, either you are on absolute truth or the devil himself. In fact this divergence in opinion is not only limited to common people but also exits in the media. Switch on to different news channels, and we see that what they report on the same issue is so different that it seems they are reporting from different planets; and the reason is no mystery, just get to know who owns these channels. The point is that to be in a proper position to stand for justice what is required is to educate ourselves and others on justice. From a part of the world where politics is intertwined with the lives of people, where a mere political opinion can even be a death sentence, the sources of political information have themselves become party to the dispute. In such a scenario, a proper political education becomes an utmost necessity, even more important than teaching algorithm or evolution. Today if we have a look at the books that students are taught in our schools as part of their political education we find the books to be pretty good. French revolution remains French revolution even now. The problem does not lie with the syllabus but with the way it is being taught. Even in the best of our educational institutions, politics (in the broad sense) is memorized rather than discussed. It should not matter whether you remember the precise date when World War II ended, what matters is that you are able to know the causes, why it happened and how we can stop such horrors in future. What is important is that we learn from history and not that we learn history. A huge responsibility lies on our political thinkers, people who understand politics – local, national as well as global, to educate the people. Let us not create a vacuum which is filled by people with an extremely biased outlook towards the world, by people for whom violence is bread and butter. Our schools, colleges and most of all our thinkers need to come forward to take this responsibility so that we leave a more peaceful world than what we inherited.