Some do, some don't…I don't have to….

Posted: March 1, 2010 in Uncategorized

There are two issues that were making the rounds the past week. The first one had to do with me, or at least something I had done – or not done. The second had nothing to do with me directly, but it’s something that’s been troubling a lot of my students.

In the first case, some of my students have been asking me why I don’t like the newspaper published by some of the students of the senior batch. I want to state, unequivocally, that I have nothing against the effort by the students. I think its remarkable the way they publish the newspaper in the middle of class tests, projects and everything else. I like the content and the writing style of these kids. All of them have written some excellent features for the news website launched by the students and I hope they will continue do so, if and when they have the time.

If I have my reservations, it’s for the liberty they have taken to use their bylines to ‘report’ from places they aren’t in. Should a reporter write his or her copy datelined Washington, Mumbai or New Delhi when he or she is writing the copy from his or her desk in Pune? Where I cut my teeth in journalism (and I never had the advantage that these kids had of learning at a media school), I was always told by my seniors that it was unethical to do such kind of ‘misreporting’.

And as a faculty who now talks to students about the pitfalls of these kinds of unethical and unhealthy practices, if I don’t object, it would mean I agree with them. It would also mean that I am teaching them this. I made my views quite clear on the subject to them when they showed me the first issue after it was published, but they still went ahead. And I have no problem with that either. This is a free world and they can write or do what they want. In today’s Internet age, you can have parental supervision over what you want your kids to view on the Internet, but the kids can still bend the rules, if they want to.

So, just like they have the right to do what they want, I too have the right to disagree on precisely the same grounds. To use a line my dear departed mother was always fond of… “Everyone has the right to make a mess of his or her life. When people get up in the morning and see their face in the mirror and like what they see, who am I to object? Just don’t expect me to like it.”

The second issue, doesn’t concern me, at least directly. It’s got to do with unruly kids who are giving the rest a bad name.

Sometime in the early 1990s, when I was working with the Herald in Pune, an elderly gentleman walked into the office. When I saw him approaching my desk , I got up and as he reached me, I promptly pulled up chair, wished him and waited for him to be seated before I sat myself down. Some of my colleagues watched in amusement, because most journalists never get up and do anything for anyone except their boss – some not even then.

One of them commented that I was behaving like I was in front of my School Principal. They were surprised to hear from me that the elderly gentleman WAS the Principal of the school I had studied in, but they still couldn’t stomach the fact that I had stood up the minute I saw him approaching and didn’t sit down until I was told to. Was I being subservient? Some of my colleagues commented that school was school and they didn’t see the need to show so much respect to their teachers.

I was reminded of this the other day when some of my students were talking to me about keeping unruly students in check. They were telling me that some of the more ‘undisciplined’ students were giving the whole class a bad name and were requesting me and a few other faculty to act.

My argument was that they were not 10-year-olds that they needed to be disciplined. At 22 or 23 they were adults who were supposed to understand their responsibilities. I didn’t think they wanted to be treated like children and if they wanted to do something about it, it was really up to them to act against the bad apples. It’s an age-old issue. The truth is, because we don’t want to take the responsibility we are happy and relieved to leave the disciplining to someone else.

I remember telling an HoD to act against a junior, but he was terrified by the prospect of calling the junior and reprimanding him. The first time I told him he refused. I left it at that. My take was that it was his department and he had to work with them, so it was up to him to take whatever action he thought fit. The mistakes kept happening and he would not pull up the junior, till one evening I bluntly asked him to hand over all his responsibilities to his immediate junior! That did it! He called the junior and ticked him off for the errors.

I remember asking him, “Now that wasn’t so hard was it?” The guy actually began enjoying it after that! Suddenly people began seeing a new, assertive HoD and everyone listened to him. My take is quite simple, either you be a friend or a boss or be a fine mix of both.

When I asked some of the students as to how many of them wished their faculty, there was a general shaking of heads! So I guess it starts from there, or maybe earlier, doesn’t it? Not all them are that way. Most of them are good kids who will at least nod and smile as they walk past. I guess it also has a lot to do with their present environment. It’s difficult to stay focussed every hour when you are burdened with tests, assignments, projects, overbearing parents & faculty, parties, night-outs, boyfriends, girlfriends, heartbreaks…the issues are endless! But it still doesn’t hurt to smile!

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Comments
  1. Pradeep Menon says:

    This issue is one of my ‘raw nerve’ areas. I don’t claim to be the perfect student by any stretch of imagination. But a lot of my current classmates piss me off by their behaviour in class… How hard is it to shut up for an hour and a quarter and listen to the professor? How hard is it to control urges to SMS or to take a leak? I’ve had this simmering anger within me, ever since this course started. Over the last few months though, I have realized that I really cannot say anything to people who don’t want to listen… A stream like engineering is one where you can end up by mistake, by just following the crowd… But if you are paying multiple lakhs to get into SIMC, and then don’t have a clue about what you want to do, then it is just an insult to your classmates, your professors, your parents, and everyone else who knows you… I can go on and on and on and on, and I wouldn’t know where to stop with this… So i’ll just stop right here…

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