Indian Teaching System and (Lack of) Questioning Authority

Indian Teaching System and (Lack of) Questioning Authority

Every country has some kind of fundamental rights for its citizens like the Bill of Rights in America. One right which I think should be added to the list is the right to question authority.

Unfortunately or fortunately, this right is ingrained in my personality. Doing schooling in the Indian teaching system was a challenge for me. Whenever teachers tried to physically hit me, the next day I would be there with my dad, and in the principal’s office. Though physically hitting a kid (which by the way, Indian teachers think is their birthright) and the freedom to question authority seem unrelated, actually they are not.

I still remember an incident in 7th grade in which I simply questioned one teacher (I think his name was “Sudhir Goswami”) about why for a similar answer I got a lesser score than some other student. This really infuriated him and he crossed the whole answer sheet with a red pen and gave me a zero. His simple response was: how dare I question his authority.

You would think jerks are only present in average schools and prestigious institutions like IIT Delhi would be untouched. You are partly right. It’s true that most of the jerks are not able to rise up the ranks and become professors. Some jerks remain laboratory assistants. Let me cite an incident. It was my second week in IIT and we had to show test results in the chemistry lab. When the lab assistant (I do not remember his name) saw my results, he came straight to the conclusion that I copied it from someone else. As you can guess, he was the judge and the jury.  And he gave me a zero grade.

The same day about an hour later we had our fresher’s party, and he did me a great favor by screwing up the whole mood. It also created a deep sense of injustice which does not go away easily. It reminds me of the following quote:

“It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” – William Blackstone

I am sure you have heard different variations of it like, it’s better to let go 100 guilty people than convict one innocent person. I used to wonder about the rationale behind this, but not after the few incidents I mentioned above.

People close to me know really well that whenever someone tries to enforce authority, how much it offends me.

Today is teachers day, and it encouraged me to revise this post which I wrote two years back. I have utmost respect for those teachers who provided the knowledge which helped me transform my life including business and financial guru, Robert Kiyosaki, and spiritual guru, the late Shri S N Goenka.

Let me end with the following poem from Kabir:

“Guru gobind dou khade,
kaake lagoon paay
Balihari guru aapne
gobind diyo batay”