The ‘deshbhakti’ program: The Tribune India

Avijit Pathak


Who will deny that there is something more to education than academic specialization and purely self-centered career interests? Education, all the great pedagogues would say, must sensitize our children, broaden their horizons, cultivate the ethics of love and care, and empower them in the quest for an ethically enriched, ecologically sensitive and egalitarian society. And so, when the Delhi government decides to introduce the “deshbhakti” program, it piques our interest. The intention or stated purpose seems noble and empowering, as the school curriculum is for our children to celebrate “the spirit of independence”, understand “constitutional values”, become sensitive to “pluralism and diversity”, and realize the importance of “equality and brotherhood” in concrete living practices.

Even though this experience has a possibility, it is important to be vigilant. Let us be clear that only the nuanced art of reflective and critical pedagogy can distinguish empowering patriotism from toxic nationalism. Let us not forget that we live in a time when the ubiquitous discourse of hyper-nationalism seems to have poisoned the collective psyche and reduced patriotism to a stimulating sense of hatred for the constructed “enemy”. This kind of patriotism manifests itself in all kinds of war metaphors: defeating Pakistan at the cricket match, celebrating the militarization of conscience, cherishing the cacophony of loud slogans through some kind of hyper-masculine aggression, and reminding minorities of their own. secondary status.

However, truly meaningful and empowering patriotism does not manifest itself in strong symbols and gestures. It is always subtle, silent and gentle. It is the patriotism of a noble doctor, of a caring teacher, of a committed social activist working in silence. He doesn’t have a uniform. Likewise, the empowering spirit of patriotism reconciles the power of love and the creativity of resistance. The fact that you love your country is the reason why you should speak out against those who are corrupt, greedy and exploitative. True patriotism is not to recite mechanically “Saare jahan se achha”; instead, far from a sense of well-being, it is the critical awareness that the country can only be good when we break free from the chain of corporate loot, the politician-criminal bond, the demoralized bureaucracy and corruption in all walks of life. It is only the art of critical pedagogy that can sensitize a young learner, and allow her to see that true patriotism is manifested in the actions of a rights activist, a committed environmentalist, and, for that matter. , young students who have voluntarily served to organize oxygen cylinders, drugs and hospital beds for Covid patients. Will our school principals have the courage to encourage this kind of critical pedagogy?

Second, it is just as important to make our children aware that there is something higher and nobler than limited nationalism and the associated patriotism. It is the quest for the spiritual unity of humanity; it is the quest for a lasting relationship between development and ecology; and it is the quest for a global effort to save the world from the climate crisis, devastating wars, terrorist violence and growing disparities and inequalities. It is about inspiring our children to undertake an ever-changing journey, from the “near” to the “far”, from local concerns to our collective destiny, or from the nation with borders to the imagination of the world as a whole. . Only then would it be possible for a young student from Delhi to feel a close affinity with her counterpart in Lahore or Nairobi. Only then would it be possible to extend the power of empathy. Let our children evolve with a deeper understanding of transnationalism. It is not about buying and consuming international branded products. Instead, it is the ability to see oneself beyond limited identities, and to feel the union of Jesus and Buddha, Rumi and Kabir, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, Tagore and Whitman, or for that matter, l national anthem and “Imagine” by John Lennon. Critical pedagogy can pave the way for entrenched cosmopolitanism. But then, are we really ready?

And finally, it must be understood that no noble value – ethical social behavior, civic responsibility or environmental sustainability – can be taught by the sermon. Nor can it be limited to an official time slot: 45 minutes per day! As teachers, we must engage in a rigorous process of soul-searching. Children are alert observers; they can see and understand if we practice what we teach. Imagine a teacher who is male and female. What does it mean if he asks his students to practice the values ​​of brotherhood and equality? And imagine a power-hungry, arrogant principal who speaks rudely to not so “fancy” and “educated” parents. What does it mean if she asks her students to follow the ideals of Gandhi and Bhagat Singh? Who will educate educators? Accept it. We live in a society where most of the teacher training centers are of very poor quality; and obtaining a B. Ed. is only a technical requirement. In addition, the vocation of teachers is rarely understood and respected. From the organization of the midday meal to the electoral office: teachers are expected to do everything. So when is the time to think about critical pedagogy, read great books, think about Paulo Freire and Rabindranath Tagore, and strive for higher principles?

It is not cynicism; nor does it devalue the possibility of a “deshbhakti” curriculum. It is about being aware of the possible obstacles which must be faced.

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