Just another brick in the wall

| Updated on October 01, 2020

Make the mark: The cut-offs for St Stephen’s will probably run out of numbers by next year, and our kids will still only have learnt how to parrot definitions, not how to answer questions   -  ISTOCK.COM

An embittered high-school graduate explains why cohorts drew devil’s horns on Charles Dickens in their textbooks

Dear Editor,

A few weeks ago, a family friend’s son asked if he could borrow my Std XII textbooks now that I’m done with my board exams. I couldn’t help but think about those pages imbued with dark memories — like the time I missed three episodes of Game of Thrones to study about Harappan sewage. I didn’t want him to touch the textbooks lest he be injected with tiny tragedies like that through some kind of osmosis. I wanted to warn him of the sleepless nights, the “Beta, kitne marks aaye (How much did you score)?” phone calls, and the impending doom of caffeine dependence.

I wanted to share my biggest takeaways from my educational journey — how I still don’t know what the hell I’m going to do when they ask me to pay my income tax, or get health insurance, or whatever is going on with the whole mutual funds thing (seriously, what is that?). Wait, should I marry an accountant?

I wanted to tell him how I once threw up in the middle of the night because I was afraid that if I didn’t get 0.5 marks for correctly identifying what an emperor’s throne was called (as my friend lamented, “It’s a glorified chair, why do we have to give it meaning?”), I was never going to amount to anything. How I started to hate reading because of questions such as: What does the author mean when they say that the trees were awfully green that day? (Hint: It just means green trees.) This is the kind of stuff that drives kids to draw devil’s horns and creepy moustaches on Charles Dickens in their textbooks.

Dear Editor, when I look back at my textbooks now, margins filled with doodles that bear the marks of trigonometry-induced boredom, I realise how futile it all ended up being. The cut-offs for St Stephen’s will probably run out of numbers by next year, and our kids will still only have learnt how to parrot definitions, not how to answer questions.

But I now know that I’d much rather learn how Shakespeare was actually like the Karan Johar of the Elizabethan Era, about Archimedes running naked through the streets after making a discovery, and about the party culture in Pompeii that (literally) brought the houses down. In fact, a Shakespearean rendition of Shaawa Shaawa by our English teacher might make me better remember what to write in the board exam, without having to rote learn, or, as the kids put it, ‘ratta-maar’.

Though I want to be able to tell my family friend’s son all this, I don’t know if I can without scaring him. I hope he’ll read this, and maybe he’ll know that his school education isn’t the end of learning. In fact, I’m convinced that it isn’t even the start, and that’s what keeps me going.

That’s also what will one day allow my parents to brag about my becoming a college graduate.

You’re welcome, mom and dad.

Hopefully yours,

A life-long student

Yours Sincerely is a weekly record of grudges and grumblings from an anonymous reader

Published on October 01, 2020

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