This article was sent in to us by Akansha Rukhaiyar, a first-year at Jindal Global Law School (JGLS).
The Indian education system endows a great deal of respect on teachers. Do not question them. Do not defy them. Accept whatever they say as if it is the Holy Grail. They are given the status of God. They can do no wrong. After being subjected to such a mindset, which became especially difficult to handle in high school, joining a college that has professors who at least attempt to depart from such an attitude felt like a breath of fresh air.
One of my professors in my first semester always said “You are not supposed to behave like sponges anymore so don’t just absorb whatever I say” He told us not to blindly accept what is taught. Analyze it. Question it. He did not want us to ever agree or disagree to any concept or ideology unless we had sound logic to back up our stand. This is an antithesis to how my school teachers approached teaching. With them, any kind of discussion inevitably ended with “Stop disturbing me with frivolous questions” or “Stop arguing with me”. Creative questioning was seen as a threat rather than a sign of a sharp mind.
Naturally, it was a happy surprise attending the first few classes of the professors who advocated the more open kind of teaching. They forced us to actually think. By think I do not mean recall, but actually formulate an informed opinion of why a certain thing happened, as opposed to simply when and where it happened. When is the last time a teacher had us do that in order to arrive at an answer? “Read. Memorize. Reproduce. Repeat” was a mantra that most teachers in my school supported and suggested us to follow, if we wanted to make it to our dream colleges with sky-high cut offs.
In college, even though a particular topic might have been as interesting as a bowl of oatmeal (ugh!) and would make a good bed time story, you were expected to debate and maybe counter what the professor said and not merely jot it down, thus resulting in a logical argument that had been analyzed from all angles. It felt less mechanical and more (for the lack of a better word) freeing.
I was lucky in my college literature class too. “What did the author mean….?” is a common question but the difference between the ways in which they are dealt with in my school and college is glaring. For me, the best thing about reading a story or poem is coming up with my own interpretations of what the author/poet meant in a particular line or verse. There is no limit to it. In school, we were told that there is just one acceptable interpretation, which we have to stick to. Luckily, our college professor would leave it open to the depths of our imagination. She encouraged us to be creative and not worry about the “correct” answer.
I do understand other people might have had better teachers in school or maybe narrow-minded professors in college and would hence find this post irrelevant. But for me, to have been assigned certain professors who did not look down upon out-of-the-box thinking and felt the need to widen our parochial minds was a much-needed change.
Christopher Crawford apparently once said, “Knowledge without application is like a book that is never read.”
Our school teachers gave us that book, no doubt about that.
But I am sure our college professors will be the ones that make sure that the book is read.
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