Glendora Press October 12, 1969
And Where’s India’s Future Leadership?
(Editor’s Note: For two years prior to joining the faculty of Glendora High School, Dwayne Hunn served the U.S. Government as a member of the Peace Corps. For the next several issues the Glendora Press will carry articles by Mr. Hunn in which he vividly describes the stark reality of teeming India and some of his experiences there during his Peace Corps duty.)
By DWAYNE HUNN
For division’s sake we could make four qualitative divisions of the Indian school system. In ascending order, the lowest is the village school. This is not based on experience, but merely on reasoned comparisons at the low quality municipal school, and their teacher attraction over that at of village school.
The second rung is filled by the municipal schools and Catholic orphanages. Then follows the semi-private and Catholic schools. The pinnacle is possessed by completely private schools and especially well-endowed Catholic schools.
Months ago the government was talking of replacing these pinnacle schools with neighborhood schools. The language teaching medium, the student quality difference, and the exodus of teachers were some of the problems this would cause.
But it is to these schools that the upper class elite sends their sons and daughters. Chauffeured to and from school, brought warm lunches from home by one of their many servants, placated by most of the teachers due to the power their parents possess — school to these students usually contributes to their spoiled, spineless, undirected qualities.
When they are chauffeured through the poverty surrounding then they never think of it as their future responsibility. At this pinnacle only a rare Indian teacher will teach them to be observant, thoughtful and critical. Rote memory, paraphrasing of the textbook and unimaginative homework are the standard methods of education. Athletics provide little in the way of character formation through discipline, sweat and grime. Lack of fields and unaggressive coaching are a major part of the reason.
Their vacations, weekends, etc., are spent in air-conditioned homes, restaurants, parties and country clubs. Part-time work they do not think of, probably even if there was a labor market need, which of course there is not.
High school graduation, after their keen pursuit of grades for grades sake, will find all seeking studies abroad. Some already with the intent of staying abroad, most unwilling to say but ready and willing to sway in that philosophy. Most feel little patriotism in their country, feel they owe it little and feel it offers them little compared to what is offered elsewhere.
This is the class that is being trained to take over the chairs of its society’s leadership. They can get by with shallow education — as their success in foreign universities proves. But can their societies of tomorrow get by without feeling the pulse of the masses’ needs below them?
Without them feeling responsibility toward those needs? Can they feel that pulse without now becoming more involved, in some small way, by volunteering their time and effort in teaching, building and experiencing the life of the 95 per cent below them?
Are our affluent, middle class students different enough, when the worthy passions of our time seem to be misplaced from constructive civil rights work, headstart programs, etc., to constant good-time parties, uncivil demonstrations, etc?
Those being educated at the pinnacle will inherit the few spots of authority that exist in the political-economic infrastructure of their developing economies. Those in the lower divisions of schools are inferiorly educated, partly due to the environment they live in. They are groomed to fill the dreary, routine jobs. From these jobs, which comprise the bulk of their societies system, an outsider experiences just what their environmental life and rote memory learning situation results in.
Almost all of the civil servant employees, firm managers, indigenous engineers, teachers, etc., have been groomed on being told an answer, or on finding it in a book. When situations, which you unfortunately may be the instigator of, present themselves and call for a self-imitated course of action – you are in trouble. You may be left waiting for hours, days or weeks over what by our standards, would be considered an inconsequential act.
During this time one of the above mentioned being dealt with will search policy manuals for the patented answer. Or seek higher authority so as to dodge personal responsibility.
It is considered culture when things do not move fast in many Latin American and Asian countries. But today it is part of the weak system of low quality education and thought which seems to be institutionalizing this type of action in those places. Due to the surplus of problems and dearth of resources to deal effectively with this low quality education system, it becomes more institutionalized and less susceptible to future change.
The upper class student can thwart the low quality educational system because they have the means to remain near the scientific-technical revolution. They have access to radio, books, travel (though exchange restrictions are forcing many more Indians to remain provincial in their outlooks), etc., with which to stay abreast of the world. In fact due to the low economic position of the teacher the students are often more abreast of the modern world than are they. The teaching profession does not attract the better qualified and upper class people. This scale will give an idea why
Rs. 7.5 — one dollar.
Teacher- (municipal) Rs. 64-month
Teacher- (private) 180-month
Thus if you are especially qualified, you must be very dedicated to pursue this profession.
I could go on. But perhaps enough known problems of India along with a few more complexities, hopefully revealed here, has served a purpose. As most media viewers know, India for the past few years has been in a position of strain. Due to this her political structure is also being strained to reduce the other social strain. The Congress party is no longer monolithic. She is bitingly chastised by the middle class, business dominated Swatantra party, by the wings of the Communist party, by the conservative and often chauvinistic Jan Sang party.
The strains and criticisms have focalized many inadequacies and corruptions in India’s means of development. Hopefully this atmosphere will mean a more efficient path to change. But, at this possibly crucial stage, a major change in our foreign policy could be a catastrophe.
I can look back to a personal level for enforcement here. Orphans in India go unclaimed for life. Catholic institutions care for them. Yet the price of administration determines the amount of care available. Were it not for the free aid of powdered milk and wheat supplied by the U.S., rice supplied by Spain and canned goods (produced by the U.S.) supplied by Holland; the 150 orphans I worked with would be a smaller and physically weaker number.
This goes on through the system, right down to the grains we supply the masses. Granted, much of this is pilfered by men with connections, amazing amounts are eaten by rats (some figures claim 20-25 per cent of the gross supply); but without that amount that trickles down to the rightful, needy sources what would happen?
An Indian stare commissioner once told me. “If America was really our friend she would cut all foreign aid, leave us to flounder, suffer and face up to our problems alone in our own way.”
Their own way would possibly mean a shaking out of their lethargic, apathetic frame at mind. But it would also possibly mean revolution, bloodshed, mass starvation, disease, etc. The experience, if our Western, Christian mentality could sit through the bloody coliseum, would be ugly and inhumane. A consequently ugly, inhumane government could be the result.
The walk through the chawls was ugly. But without our understanding of its life and its causes, our aid and patience in changing these — it could he much uglier. One of my favorite quotes concludes and applies just as well to India and our relation to it. It concludes and applies just as well to our affluent society’s responsibility to the development of quality at home. Albert Schweitzer once said:
And for those who have more,
Those who need not struggle for existence,
It is for them to set the example.