Delusions of a clichéd mind
WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND THE MYTHS OF OBJECTIVITY AND IMPARTIALITY WHILE APPROACHING AN ISSUE. ASHLEY TELLIS RESPONDS TO JUNAID AZIM MATTU’S ARTICLE ‘THE DANGER OF POLITICIZING EXAM PAPERS’
Junaid Azam Mattu makes several claims both on his own behalf and on behalf of an unspecified ‘we.’ He has a sure sense of what is right and wrong and presumes ‘we’ all share it. He says ‘we’ never condemn human rights and other violations by non-state actors. Worse still, he thinks all students are plain morons, prone to provocation and without an opinion of their own. Apparently, only exam questions fuel opinion. He is also a disciplinary policeman, deeming questions fit and unfit in English or Political Science. He thinks education is a neutral, non-politicised space in danger of politicisation by questions that make students use their critical faculties. Why, he is sympathetic even to the RSS and chides us for our objection to such a question. He also believes that we have not evolved and deems education not an experiment with student minds.For all his defence of azaadi, he is actually worried about ‘our nation.’ He also has an amazing imaginative ability. He knows what Noor wants from the students, calls him ‘sly’ and he thinks Kashmiris are jingoistic and have jingoistic teachers.
At the heart of this rather ill-informed and self-righteous rant is one idea, a somewhat sad one. That education is ‘neutral’ and ‘objective’ and should stay that way. This is an idea discredited in the social sciences, philosophy and literature, indeed in the Humanities as a whole, more than four decades ago at least. But Mr. Mattu holds on to this rather naive idea and cites Robert Simons (a rightwing Business School professor who teaches Management and whose latest book is called Seven Strategy Questions). But let us not even go there. Let us stick to the question and the rather dead old horse of ‘objectivity’ which some people still continue to flog.
As a lecturer in English for almost a decade now and someone who works in education, I feel the question asked by Bhat is the perfect question. It does not impose any views on anyone, it is not a ‘sly’ question at all and it ends on the word ‘Discuss’. It offers a proposition which grants a student freedom to write in favour or against. Objectivity’ and ‘truth’ are myths and the academic world has long recognised the provisional nature of it. It gives the students precisely what Mr. Mattu claims he wants Kashmiri students to have: the freedom to think. That Bhat asked this in an English paper is apt. English Literature, or indeed any literature, more than any other discipline exposes the myth of objectivity. Literary writing is the voice of usually one person. In no way, can an individual vision of the world be ‘objective.’
Indeed, it is not even factual or verifiable. That does not make it meaningless. It is still a vision of the world and very often a valuable one. The vision of the stone-throwers as heroes is one such vision of the world. And Bhat is asking students to think about this and articulate what they feel about it. This helps them exercise their critical faculties, their imaginations, their visions.
And he is in jail for asking it. He is in jail for this ‘unlawful activity.’ The issue here is of Mr. Butt’s democratic rights which even by the most ‘subjective’ account have been violated. And yet the so-called Kashmiri nationalists find nothing so serious in having a teacher arrested.
In the guise of some mythical ‘objectivity,’ they mask their own complicity. They impute a politics to Bhat, impute slyness to him, impute the complete absence of ideology to themselves. It is a sad and sorry day for Kashmir that rightwing thinkers, co-opted by the rightwing nation-state and the right-wing academic establishment tout academic neutrality and impartiality yet offer the most subjective and partial accounts – imputing motives to everyone but themselves – of a question set by a teacher who clearly believes in the real freedom to think and is in jail for upholding the same principle. Long live Harvard Business School objectivity! Long live the impartiality of the ‘democratic’ Indian nation-state!
(Ashley Tellis is Researcher based in New Delhi)
Lastupdate on : Wed, 22 Dec 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 22 Dec 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 23 Dec 2010 00:00:00 IST
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