The fav. niece scored an astronomical percentage in class 12. She plans to
include my name in her thank-you speech when the TV cameras come to her interview her. Else she’s off my India-shopping list.
I have three problems with this whole percentage thingie.
1. It doesn’t say anything about you.
But the world somehow thinks it does.
Like the girl who scored a 99 per cent has a halo that’s far glowy-ier than
the one who got 69 per cent. It just says that you can stand up to an
academic challenge without cracking.
It doesn’t say how you stopped your music lessons, or stopped attending
weddings and social do’s, and put your life on hold.
It doesn’t say how my niece’s biological clock went bonkers with her studying late nights; it doesn’t show a year’s worth of Carnatic music training
missed, it doesn’t say that she’s polite or witty or childlike.
No. It may be a reflection of her hardwork and consistent discipline, but that’s about it.
I once met an IITian who behaved as if her GPA was stuck on her forehead. Percentages give children all these faux superiorities and inferiorties.
2. It’s not a judge of how well you will do in life.
I cant say this often enough. First who is a judge of “doing well”?
One much feted classmate committed suicide before his graduation. Another one, was clinically depressed.
One IITian, I know well, is clueless about paying utility bills. And he is 35 years old.
The boy who topped my school and found a place in a top engineering college, didn’t come back to collect his medals.
None of his classmates clapped for him, when his name was announced.
What’s academic superiority, when not even one of 40 children doesnt’ like you enough to even politely clap for you.
3. The professional Option.
WHY IS THAT THE DEFAULT OPTION IN INDIA? Of the 100 or so toppers that i met in a popular school in Chennai, five years back, only ONE had chosen to study literature. Everyone else was in Enginnering or Medicine. Wha?
Why does it seem like the only option to parents?
What about working with children? What about teaching?
What about special education?
Don’t we need brilliant minds there as well.
But our whole society is monomaniacal that way. It sets in to place hundreds of stereotypes:
“you did literature because you didn’t get into some other course.”
“the arts are for dull-heads”
“there’s no scope for people who choose arts etc”
And in classes X, XI and XII, there’s no time to know more about a child’s likes and tastes; the child is trying to cope with all the pressure from school and home.
Academics is now a one-way street, with an Engineering or Medical College at the end of this rat race.
And it’s only when they are well into their career, do some people really grow up into who they really are and say “Excuse-me. I can’t take this bull-crap anymore. I want a change.”
(sorry for the book of a post. but couldnt stop once i had started. grrrrrr.)