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Educational politics – How schools dehumanize politicians

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I was attending my school classes, as always. We had a break between our English and Politics class, and I utilized it to its full potential. Personally, I am thoroughly fascinated by politics, politicians and governance in general. I couldn’t wait for our teacher to begin the first chapter. I had prepared in advance, and since we were discussing global politics and analyzing certain decisions, I knew I had an edge over the others. This is where those courses would aid me. Those tiring quizzes I had prepared for. This is where it would repay me. I was exhilarated.

However, after what happened next, that very exhilaration, that very excitement and my passion and fascination for politics, or that chapter at least, went down the drain. We started off by talking about Pakistan under Pervez Musharraf and whether it could be considered a democracy. We then moved on to the Communist rule of China, the unfair rule Mexico faced in the past and after skimming through the above aspects of democracy, decided to end with Robert Mugabe’s rule of Zimbabwe.

The textbook talked about his power-thirsty attitude, his unmoral activities, his corruption and his disgraceful attitude in general. The textbook quite authentically, described his actions in detail and made all of us students aware about the “tyranny” Zimbabwe had to go through under the rule of Zanu-PF.

One aspect of Mugabe’s rule, that was stressed on repeatedly, was that he gave very little or no freedom to opportunity to opposition party workers. It was mentioned in grave detail, that he declared public protests illegal, introduced laws that limited the right to criticize him and thoroughly censored the media and press. The publishers of the textbook even went on to specify how Mugabe had even harassed some journalists who didn’t follow his law.

Now, one might wonder as to what Zimbabwean politics, that too something that happened four or five years ago, or even more is even relevant at this day and age. However, before that is cleared up, I want to ensure you, that this article is not written with any bias in mind. It is solely written for the purpose of conveying what is happening at school and at certain institutions and why it should be changed. I do not bear any affiliation with Zanu-PF, I don’t support or condemn his actions. I am completely neutral in this sphere and I understand that each ruler has his/her own style and method of governance.

But getting back to the point, after completing its rant about Robert Mugabe, the textbook publishers decided to go out on a limb and attack the current government. On the left-hand side of the main content, where there are usually small text boxes with interesting facts or riddles, there was a picture of a girl coming down a slide, who seemed to be having a lot of fun.

Below this seemingly harmless image was something very hurtful. Something that turned the nice political discussion we were having about Zanu-PF, into an exasperating reign of terror. The text, directly relating to Mugabe’s rule, read, and I quote, “Why talk about Zimbabwe? I read similar reports from many parts of our own country. Why don’t we discuss that?”

Our teacher, whom I used to admire a lot, adhered to the question and decided to brief us about her thoughts on politics. I agree that everyone is entitled to their own opinions however, in a class with 180 students, each with different interests, different needs, different likings, it is morally wrong to bring up your own political bias and preach.

Because our school is made up of people from various religious, political, social and economic backgrounds, I feel that teachers should be very careful, especially politics teachers, who play a role of utmost importance in shaping tomorrow’s leaders and tomorrow’s voters. However, this particular teacher was indeed relentless and remorseless in her attack against certain politicians, certain political parties and the Indian political system overall.

She started her lengthy speech by something she came across on WhatsApp, a medium that people label as, “not so trustworthy”. She asked us whether we believed that punishing citizens for criticizing the government, insulting the Prime Minister and other derogatory acts was right or wrong.

A plethora of responses came up and the most common one seemed to be that the government has no right to punish citizens as we have the right to freedom of speech and expression. Our teacher agreed and went on to talk about why we should criticize the government. I was totally fine with this until she started bringing the specifics into play.

She started harassing the current government in power saying we should question them thoroughly and not be “blind”. Now I am aware that people have their own opinions but again, as I have specified, it is blatantly wrong to teach the class what she “feels” is right. It was absolutely unacceptable.

She went on to label these elected representatives as “slaves” and “servants” and continued referring to them as maids and people who work under us, which created a bit of controversy amongst the students. The chat bot was abuzz with numerous messages being sent in, students in awe of what the teacher had said. A particular student, who has always been a teachers’ favorite, very surprisingly, had an opposing view. He posted, in capital letters on the chat, rather passively, “I DO NOT BELIEVE WE CAN REFER TO ELECTED REPRESENTATTIVES AS SLAVES. THIS IS JUST A PERSONAL OPINION.”

I agreed with him on the chat box and until the end of the class the chat box was still buzzing with a truckload of messages. The teacher, who was very busy teaching vulnerable students her view did not view the chat box until the next day and for the next twenty minutes we had to listen to her go on and on about how the political system in India is a circus and how “everyone” is corrupt.

Honestly speaking, this teacher had been one of my favorites so far and she thoroughly liked my responses and appreciated me on numerous fronts, so it was very hard to see someone skilled like her, go rogue, especially on such a political topic. The teacher had been very different than other social science teachers I had come across.

While other teachers would read out of the textbook and then leave the class, this teacher was different. I distinctly remember, she always used to start the class with a question and end it with one that would hit you hard. She loved asking hard hitting questions and would often debate us on our own answers, either proving them wrong or illogical. We would them argue back, supporting the fact that our answer is valid. This unique way of conducting classes was really admired by not only myself but students across classes.

However, the past few days have not even minutely reflected the description of her classes I offered. Her questions are now very opinion based and tilted and she focuses putting on the table, her views and opinions as opposed to the wide range of content available in our textbook.

I thought, the next day she would realize that she wasn’t supposed to teach her opinion in class and apologize. But boy I couldn’t be more wrong!

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