Of boxes and boundaries

This last week has not only been enlightening, but has been entertaining as well. Ask me how and I might tell you that it has been because of some 38 12-14 year olds. I am not a teacher. In fact I feel quite terrified of the thought of facing down a class-ful of youngsters who will notice and remember that the fifth word on the board had a wrong spelling. I am not a teacher, but I have been ‘teaching’ this group of 38 or so kids art. I am not an artist either. In fact I can’t even draw a line from top of the page to the bottom without meandering around some.
So what am I – a not-teacher, not-artist, doing teaching a class-ful of kids art.
That has been the entertaining bit.
The enlightenment came with a little more bit of scare.
What was overwhelmingly obvious was their control – control over themselves. The class lasted for 2 hours and not one of them got up to wander or even stretch. A lot of them sat in the same position throughout the session. They would not even get up to help when we were trying to rearrange the way they sat. This got my goat – not that they did not help – but that they were stationary. I wanted to shake them. Shock them. Wake them.
It was an art class. It was about imagination. And yet none, not a single artwork, crossed boundaries. Uniformly they drew margins. But none had the urge to cross it. To zoom beyond. I waited in vain for at least one of them to slash across the page or splash colour in corner. But no. The colours were tamed. The kids were firmly tamed.
I quake at the thought of what must be happening to my two kids. Is this what they are in the process of becoming. Boxed-in zombies who will parrot out what is expected, firmly keeping themselves buried deep inside.
By the end of the week, we had discarded the first round of art work they did. And started on the second round of the ‘improved’ version. And this time there were little licks of fire here and there. So it was there. The spark. The urge. The curiosity. The mischief. The laughter. The fun.
Being in my 40s and subscribing to a generation that rebeled if not for a specific cause, at least to rebel for the sake of rebelling, the current generation had me completely foxed by its lack of need to question. I have waited for questions. They haven’t come yet.
And this was the enlightenment bit. That our education system has created teachers whose entire mission in life to create little clones of little obedient lambs. Clones of teachers who are little lambs themselves, not once peeking out of their school boundaries to see a world that has been set on fire by a variety of reasons.
Question I now face is what am I going to do with this entertaining enlightenment.

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One thought on “Of boxes and boundaries

  1. Hi Radha,I suggest you watch the movie Monalisa Smile starring Julia Roberts. She joins a woman’s high school as an art teacher in a very conventional township in America in the 1950s.. She then has an amazing journey ahead wherein the students know each and every word given in the art text-book learnt by heart at the beginning of the term itself. As a teacher, Julia is faced with the challenge of opening up the minds of the girls to “critical thinking” outside the norms set for them by the society. It is an amazing film, and one of my favourites too. Enjoy!

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