Sometimes what we are taught is what we know, until we find a reason to question it or unless one is of a highly inquisitive nature. I think that poses a big responsibility on teachers and the like, to not pass on their opinions, their position over issues, on to the students and maintain a neutral position. Since I’ve come to LSE, in almost all lectures, every prof, save one, has criticised the World Bank for being responsible for deepening poverty through their SAPs. But only one made us realise that we couldn’t take a stance until we know all sides of the debate. Did the WB actually intend those programs to fail? I believe that the professors who do pass their cynicism of WB in their lectures would obviously know all sides of the debate and have good enough reason to do so. But without telling the student those reasons or without stimulating their enquiry, is it right to condition their minds? Teachers are often looked upon as role models and many times students will take the teacher’s word for a particular point being right or wrong.
Maybe in issues like World Bank’s policies one could maintain a neutral position while teaching the subject but how about issues involving national boundaries and national integrity? Do we teach the students the geography we believe is correct or the one, which the rest of the world believes is correct? The map of India as I learned in my history, geography classes in school was how it is represented in the first picture (taken from mapofindia.com) but the map my friend who is a Pakistani knows, is something like in the second picture. Which one is correct? Until, I think 11th or 12th standard I didn’t even know about the existence of any other kind of map of India and I would have fought over PoK being an Indian territory with anybody suggesting that it is Pakistan. All I knew (which I believe is the common impression) was that it is unrightfully under Pakistan’s control, it is Pakistan occupied! But it came as a surprise that PoK is not even a term outside of India. That it is actually PaK (quite a coincidence! :)) Pakistan administered Kashmir. The area is part of Pakistan, if we look at maps of India on websites outside the Indian domain.. Like figure 2 or 3 from undp and geology.com respectively. We’ve been conditioned all through our schooling to take the figure 1 as the map of India. Can rejecting the existence of ‘other’ make the first correct or legitimate (at least for their own citizens!)? And once we move beyond our own borders can this ignorance actually lead to arrogance on issues that may concern the political boundaries. In a school which has “…and Political Science” in its name, we are bound to be political, we are bound to have opinions and positions on sensitive issues as Indo-Pak or Israel-Palestine. Can we afford to be ignorant? The old saying “Ignorance is bliss” has in my opinion become really old and can no longer be used to justify it. I think we should be taught to be always sceptical of what we think we know.